Monday, June 27, 2016

Light [Part 2] - Overcoming Spiritual Blindness

In John 9:1-5 we read about Jesus encountering a blind man. 
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
If you have read the post about Jesus being the light, you would realize that the purpose of miracles if to point to Christ being the light. Do you think it is important that some miracles be done in public? Why did Jesus do so many miracles in public? Why don't we see them being done in public today?

So, Jesus healed him by making clay through spit and dirt on the ground and anointing the man's eyes. He then had to wash in the pool of Siloam. People then came and asked how it was that he was no longer blind.
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. (John 9:11-16)
The people then took the now-seeing man to the Pharisees. He had been healed on the Sabbath and they were complaining to their church leaders that someone had violated the law. They were upset with Jesus and wanted to get him into trouble. This was not the first time he was healing someone on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees now wanted to get to the bottom of this. 
17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. (John 9:17-23)
They asked the man what had happened to him. He responded that he was healed by a prophet. Why would he say prophet? He witnessed Christ's works and knew there was something special about him. But, the Jews didn't believe him and so they went to talk to the parents. They didn't want to say because they they were afraid of being kicked out of the synagogue (or excommunicated). Essentially, they were scared the leaders of the church would tell them they weren't allowed to attend church anymore.
24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. 30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. (John 9:24-34)
As a result of this man's blunt testimony that Jesus can't be a bad person if he is doing the works of God, he was kicked out of the synagogue, or excommunicated. How hard would that be? You state what you believe and you are told not to return to church anymore. These Pharisees really believed they were doing the right thing though.

Here is a crazy question: Is it more important to do or state what you believe is true and be kicked out of church or do whatever it takes to continue being able to attend church, no matter what?

Spiritual blindness
Jesus then comes on the scene because he hears that the man has been cast out (see verse 35). He now teaches the man and the pharisees who are there. Remember that the people genuinely believed that his blindness resulted from him being born in sin (see verse 34). Generally, it was believed it was a punishment due to the sin of the parents or the person themselves.

How do we know if we are spiritually blind? 

We are all spiritually blind to an extend. Some are more so than others. This blindness is equivalent to being in a deep sleep where one is not aware. We don't accept or believe truth (things as they really are) when it is presented to us.
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them! (Mosiah 8:20)
Two main things are spoken about in conjunction with blindness
(1) sin (see 3 Nephi 18:15,18; Alma 15:17; Mosiah 4:30 “watch yourselves”) 
(2) not understanding truth.

When we don't accept truth, it leads us into sin. Not only does sin lead to captivity and death, but choosing not to seek light and truth leads to the same place. Awaking, on the other hand, refers to repenting. So since we all sin and we don't understand all truth, we are all technically blind, but the point is for us to increase our sight and move from this state of blindness to a state of seeing. Paul said we are all looking through a glass darkly. For some the glass is darker than others (i.e. some are more blind than others). The point is to open ourselves up to light and truth and move towards seeing spiritually.

In my previous post on light, we discussed the metaphor of light and how light often refers to truth and works. Light is necessary for us to see. Not being blind and possessing light are directly related.

There are other metaphors which describe the same thing as blindness: deafness (2 Nephi 9:31-32), being asleep (Jacob 3:11), being dead (Ephesians 5:14), drunk (Joel 1:15). These themes are interwoven with the theme of captivity (2 Nephi 1:23; Alma 5:7).

These metaphors can be contrasted with the words: awake, arouse, watch listen, sight, and life.

We choose to be blind
This blindness and deafness is a choice. How do we choose to be blind? Consider these verses:
And wo unto the deaf that will not hear; for they shall perish. Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also. (2 Nephi 9:31-32)
how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light? (Helaman 13:29)
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them! (Mosiah 8:20)
Those who choose not to seek further light and truth are considered blind. Those who will not hear the voice of God are deaf. So we are completely accountable for our state of blind- and deafness.

Blindness results from false traditions

This blindness can also come as a result of the things we are taught causing us to rely on false traditions or the philosophies of men.
For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it— (Doctrine and Covenants 123:12)
Can this verse also refer to Latter-day Saints?

When the philosophies of men and commandments of men are added to truth, it distorts people's understanding of what is from God and what is from man. Think about if you were living in Jesus' time and you were practicing the Mosaic Law. Why was it so hard for the people to distinguish between the commandments of men and the commandments of God?

Most people don't know that they are blind and think they know and understand the truth and nothing in their belief system is false. 

In Helaman, we read that the Lamanites dwindled in unbelief because of the traditions of their fathers (Helaman 15:15). The Book of Mormon frequently uses the term, “dwindling in unbelief.” Dwindle means to diminish gradually. Unbelief develops gradually because changes in God’s word occur gradually. This is, however, not limited to the Lamanites. Due to the imperfections of men and other reasons, changes occur in doctrine, practices, and ordinances. These changes get passed on through the generations until it is forgotten what and how changes were made. These changes constitute unbelief because they consist of either false or partially false beliefs. Because these things are so widely taught and believed, it is very difficult to determine what might not be completely correct. But, it is important to remember that additions to God's word and law need to come through revelation and should not be constructed due to societal pressure or what seems like a good idea.

In order to overcome blindness, one needs to identify false traditions. We as Latter-day Saints have our fair share of them. Can you think of some general false traditions? What about the idea that angels or Christ don't appear to regular people? Or that idea that participating in ordinances cement your place in heaven? Or all callings in the church are inspired? Or a couple is unconditionally sealed after a temple marriage? Or what it takes to create Zion and who will create Zion? And so on. 

How would you determine what the commandments of men were as opposed to the commandments of God? Think about if there are any false traditions or philosophies of men or even commandments of men that you believe in now. If you cannot think of any, how can you find out if you believe in any?
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:14)
An essential part of progressing towards Christ is asking God to reveal false traditions and beliefs that you possess. If we want to overcome spiritual blindness, we need to be willing to accept all light and truth that God has in mind for us and let go of false beliefs and traditions. There is no other way to move forward.

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