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The once-blind man said (John 9:31): “We know that God does not listen to sinners.” There’s something to that—1 Peter 3:12—but thank God it’s not the entire story and we’re not to turn it into a flinty absolute. [How tragic it is that we tend to make a couple of verses the entire truth about anything!]
We’ll want to remember that the once-blind man said this in defence of and out of faith in Jesus as he spoke to Christ’s enemies. Religious leaders raged against Christ as a vile transgressor of God’s law because on the Sabbath day he freed a man from lifelong darkness the way God freed a nation from long-term Egyptian slavery. The once-blind man was bravely asserting Jesus’ intimacy with the Holy Father while they viewed Jesus as an impenitent rebel. In light of that it’s strange to hear it used as proof that God goes deaf when the non-elect turn heavenward in time of real need or in perplexity.
God doesn’t ceaselessly oppose rebels; he isn’t always hunting them down or—what would be equally tragic—he doesn’t completely isolate them and leave them utterly without blessing (do see Acts 14:16-17). God does oppose unrighteousness and makes no apology for it! He does it for the glory of his own righteous name and he does it for the benefit and rescue of the human family and even for the rebel. He opposes the unrighteous now and he will oppose the impenitently unrighteous in a coming judgment day but that truth is not the only truth Jesus taught us about God and those who are like God.
The blessed upright, with their inherited creed—a healthy and truth-filled creed—are sorely tempted to give up on the masses of moral strugglers because their righteousness has distanced them from the unrighteous in ways that are unlike Jesus who is the image of the invisible God. With a shrug of righteous shoulders they dismiss them; often thinking they must, because they think the Holy Father does the same but more probably because their patience and their “love pool” is shallower by far that God’s is.
The holy ones of John 9 isolated the “moral peons”; they gave up on them and separated themselves into their cosy religious enclaves not knowing that God sent his Son because he couldn’t withhold him (see Romans 8:31-32, John 3:16-17 and elsewhere). The righteous ones thought because the masses didn’t yearn for God (as they did, of course) that God did not yearn for the masses. But if Jesus is to be believed then it’s true that:
God loves to be longed for
He longs to be sought
For he sought us himself with such longing and love
He died for desire of us
And he longs for us now
To be with him above
Jesus looked at crowds of people and saw them as sheep worried by packs of dogs or wolves, as burdened animals or weary oxen with ill-fitting yokes. We’re only able to feel that way when we’re in Jesus’ presence or thoroughly saturated in his Holy Spirit. We tend to limit that compassion to the poor and disadvantaged and that makes perfect sense; we’re usually less angry with the poor and the marginalized than we are with the well-off and self-sufficient. I’m convinced that God would think that if we are to be imbalanced that we should be imbalanced in favour of those who have known so little of the advantages of life.
Even so, however difficult it is for us to live it out, we should hold that even the self-sufficient and self-centred are being devoured by wolves. For all their brilliance and their blessings (all God-given though they don’t know it) they have been robbed and are being robbed of their souls. “Christ Jesus came to save sinners,” said one man, “and I’m the worst of them.” He goes on to say that Jesus saved him so that everyone would know if he could/would save him no one should think himself “unsaveable” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
It doesn’t seem to matter to God [it does—it matters profoundly!]; it doesn’t seem to matter to God that we don’t want him. He wants us! He keeps coming after us, telling us what he wants to do for us and to us and through us and along with us. He seeks us to do more than forgive us—he seeks us to make something of us; to make us in the image of Jesus so that we'll be what he always purposed us to be—like him!