921) Assumptions and Faith (part one of two)

       I like ice cream.  In fact, I like ice cream so much that I never buy it.  If I know there is a pail of ice cream in the house, I will be into it two or three times a day until it is gone.  Therefore, we hardly ever have ice cream in our freezer.

     The problem is the calories.  If I were to eat three bowls of ice cream every day I would put on several pounds each month, and I don’t want to do that.  I worry about the long term consequences of eating too much of it.

     What I don’t worry about with ice cream is the short term consequences, because there have never been any for me.  It just tastes great, and that is all that’s to it.  However, I know someone who no longer likes ice cream because of the short term consequences she had one time.  After a single bowl of ice cream, she became violently ill and was sick for three weeks.  Perhaps you remember several years ago when a Minnesota ice cream company had a problem with some E.coli in a batch of its ice cream, and many people became sick from it.  She was one of them.  The problem was traced to another company that supplied one of the ingredients in the ice cream.  Someone at that other plant had failed to clean the equipment properly one day, and the product became tainted.

     Think about that.  Think of all the steps that are in the process of making ice cream, beginning with getting the milk from the cow, the sugar from the field, the chemicals for the flavoring, and the fruit or nuts to add; along with the machines and the manufacturing, the packaging, and everything else involved.  Think of all the people who have to do their job properly for that ice cream to be safe to eat, and how sick several people got when just one person did it wrong.  But when I sit down ahead of the TV with a big bowl of ice cream, I don’t worry about any of that.  I just assume that the ice cream is going to taste good and not make me sick.  And usually, that is a safe assumption.

     We cannot live without assumptions.  We don’t have the time or the equipment to do a safety check on every bite of food we take.  Stories of E.coli outbreaks because of tainted food are unpleasant to hear about, but we keep buying food at the store and keep assuming it is all right.  We have to.  And most of the time, the food is fine.  There are no 100% guarantees in anything, but we have to go by our assumptions on a lot of things.

     Assumptions are also a necessary part of our relationships.  When my wife tells me something, I can safely assume that she is telling me the truth and I don’t have to check it out.  After many years of always hearing the truth from her, I now assume that I can believe what she says to me; and it is good to be able to make that assumption.

     But the wrong kind of assumptions can be very damaging in a relationship.  In troubled relationships– be it husband and wife, parent and child, owner and employee, or neighbor against neighbor– assumptions often become a huge part of the problem as hostility increases.  Once a relationship begins to deteriorate, the two disputing people always begin to assume the worst of each other, (though even these assumptions can become necessary).  But then, even if someone is trying to be nice, the other person is distrustful, assuming there must be some evil purpose behind the seemingly nice gesture.  In a good relationship, even minor bad behavior will be overlooked and excused.  The overflowing bank of good will between two people in a good relationship provides ready forgiveness and an eagerness to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  But bad relationships often get on an unstoppable slide toward total breakdown, as everything that is done by one is seen in the worst possible light by the other.  These negative assumptions can kill a relationship. It can be dangerous to assume too much.

     And sometimes even seemingly solid assumptions have to be adjusted because of new information.  For example, when I arrange to meet someone at a certain time and place, I usually assume they will be there.  I don’t hire a detective and have them followed to make sure they arrive on time.  I just assume they will be there.  That is a good and necessary assumption.  If they are not there, I might begin to make some other assumptions about them.

     The other night, someone called to meet me.  I suggested meeting in an hour, and we agreed to call the other if anything changed.  In an hour, I was at the meeting place, but he wasn’t.  I waited and waited.  I then called his cell phone and left a message.  He did not call back.  Finally, I gave up, assuming he was rude and irresponsible, and made up my mind not to do any business with him.

     Four days later he called me back.  “Remember me?,” he said.  “Yes,” I said, “I do remember you.  I was looking for you the other night.”  He apologized, and then told me he had a car accident on the way, totaled his car, and ended up in the hospital.  “Well,” I said, “That’s a good excuse.  I hope you are all right.”  Even such a seemingly solid assumption had to be changed because of new information.

     The story in the ninth chapter of John is filled with assumptions, and most of them end up being challenged by new information…  (continued…)

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JOHN 9 (selected verses):

     As (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi,who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

     “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him…  

     After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam.”  …So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

     His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?”  Some claimed that he was.

     Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

     But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

     “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

     He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes.  He told me to go to Siloam and wash.  So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

     “Where is this man?” they asked him.

     “I don’t know,” he said.

     They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.  Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight.  “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

     Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

     But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

     Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him?  It was your eyes he opened.”

     The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

     …A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

     He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

     Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

     He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

     …To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”  And they threw him out.

     Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

     “Who is he, sir?” the man asked.  “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

     Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

     Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him…

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Terrific video of this story from the 1977 TV mini-series Jesus of Nazareth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOjN5FVGHcM

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Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You…

–From the song by Michael W. Smith

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 Healing the Man Born Blind, El Greco, 1570

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