As a foster/adopt dad, I have kids in my home with different life experiences, different expectations and different knowledge bases. When a child does something they shouldn’t do, I have stop and think… should they know the difference. Based on their situation, should I have a reasonable expectation for them to have known it was wrong. If I discipline them for doing something wrong, but they had no way of knowing what they did was wrong, then the discipline is ineffective. If they were blind to that rule, if they had no knowledge, this is a time of training… not discipline.
However, if you’ve ever been pulled over by a copy, you probably know that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. There is an automatic assumption that since you have a license, you have the responsibility to know the laws and rules around driving. So simply burying your head in the sand to claim ignorance, does not work in that scenario.
So when thinking about my children, I have to question… Is this something that has ever been addressed in our household before? Have we had a conversation about this issue? Is it reasonable to expect that a child at this age should know this issue? Even if it’s reasonable for a child this age… is it reasonable for a child with their background? These questions need to be answered in a matter of seconds sometimes. Is this a time for discipline or a time for training?
Jesus used the event of healing a blind man to discuss the concept of spiritual blindness. “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41)
The type of blindness Jesus is talking about is not willful blindness, but true ignorance of the Law. If someone truly has no basis to know the Law, they cannot be held accountable to that Law. Jesus is telling them that if they are ‘truly blind’ they ‘would have no guilt’. But we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) Even though “all” are short of expectations, it is actually possible for someone to legitimately be blind to their shortfall and therefore ‘have no guilt’. This doesn’t mean someone that just doesn’t see their own sin, it would mean they are so blind to the sin that they don’t see ANY sin in anyone.
The level of blindness Jesus is referring to simply does not exist. And this is what He is saying to the Pharisees. Of course they believed they were without sin, but they certainly saw the sin in others. In fact it is for this reason they are approaching Jesus in the first place. They saw the sin in Him for healing on the Sabbath, but not their own sin for conducting a circumcision on the Sabbath. “If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:23-24) Yes, they were blind to their own sin, but they were not blind to the Law itself (simply not applying it well).
There is still some we can take away from in this text. Sure, none of us are so blind as to have no guilt. But how often do we judge people on a standard we cannot actually expect them to have knowledge of. Just like my children, we all come from different backgrounds with different circumstances. When we see someone break a law they had no way of understanding, do we see this as a time for discipline or a time for training?
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