Monday, September 24, 2012

Did they say your child was a punishment for sin?

Hello, thank you for joining me in A Good Bible Study! It has been quite a few months since we got together to share God's Word. Getting to know the passion and zeal God has for us was wonderful, wasn't it?! And learning that He put passion and zeal for Him, and for life, in our DNA package was very cool, as well. 

Photo by Sura Nualpradid, courtesy of
I'm reading the book of John now, chapter 9. Jesus addresses whether or not a parent's sin caused a baby to be born with birth defects. How is this relevant to you and me? Because this ignorant, self-righteous attitude is still prevalent today, even in western "civilized" countries.

More than once I've heard grief stricken parents share a story of a "well-meaning" acquaintance who suggested their child's affliction was somehow their fault. When our doctor told us that our unborn son, Matthew, had multiple birth defects, one of the first things I considered was had I unknowingly done something to cause our pain? The medical answer was that Matthew was just that 1 in 10,000 babies that do not form correctly and for some reason did not miscarry.

Believe it or not, a pastor (not ours) told us that yes, my husband and I caused Matthew's illness because we were not happy about being pregnant again so soon after our daughter was born. If we sincerely repented, he said, Matthew would be healed. OK, on the off chance it could help, we did just that but, really? If being initially unhappy about a pregnancy, caused miscarriage and birth defects, I shudder to think of how many children would not be alive today!

And yes, we were sincere about regretting our initial reaction to Matthew's arrival, and no, he was not healed. However, Matthew did far more than any doctor predicted. He touched hundreds of hearts while he was with us, and his life was meaningful and full, in that short time. And like all of our children will do, he died.

It saddens me to hear self-righteous individuals tell parents that their child's misfortune was caused by their sinful past decisions. I especially hate it when they quote limited passages from the bible, out of context, as "support." I hate to tell you Bub, but if it were the case that our sins cause birth defects in our children, then every single child alive would be born severely challenged!

Read with me briefly John 8: 1-11; New International Version 1984

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and He sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.
 But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning Him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.
His point? Not one of us is without sin in our lives, even if only in our hearts. Even those of us who might say, "I follow all of God's laws every day," cannot say they have never thought something hurtful or judgmental.  
"Who can say I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?" Proverbs 20:9
" Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don't have eternal life within them."    1 John 3:15
So, who are these people who have never even had a hateful thought, who have never held onto a grudge, who have never carried a bit of prejudice in their hearts? According to God, they don't exist. So, by the logic that our negative choices have the consequence of emotionally, or physically, or intellectually challenged children, there should be not one healthy child in existence.

Now does Jesus say, "Hey everyone's doing it, so I'm not going to single you out for punishment?" Come on.  Re-read verse 11.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

So, just so we are on the same page: we are all sinners, and we can all be forgiven, and if we truly want forgiveness, we are going to stop doing the same things over and over that lead us into trouble. Makes sense.

Ever going to not be a sinner, even for a moment? Doubtful - just because it's difficult to maintain anything near perfect control over our thoughts. Did He ever ask us to be perfect in order to be forgiven? No, Jesus has got that covered. He simply asks us to be sincere. Not perfect, just sincere.

Look, we can certainly do things that affect our unborn children. Taking drugs, alcohol, being physically abused, falling, sure, of course, there are things we or others can do that will harm our children. That's not what I am talking about, and that's not what these verses refer to ( I know it should be, to what they refer, but that proper English sounds weird in a conversation, and that's what you and I are having.)

Our children are not directly punished for our sins. They might be affected by our behavior, but God is not tapping babies on the head and assigning a genetic abnormality because you told a lie in the third grade, or even did something far worse. I will let God himself explain:

Jesus answered the question very clearly in John 9:1-3
"As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, 'Rabbi (teacher), 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 work of God might be displayed in his life.'" 
 After this, Jesus healed the man. He did not say God made the child blind, necessarily, either. He did say God's work would be displayed in this man's life because of his affliction. God wanted to show Himself to this man and for some reason, it was through his blindness, and healing, that was the most effective. Back to the point at hand:

During this time, people believed that a baby could sin in the womb, and bring calamity on herself. Either that, or the affliction was a finger pointing at the parents' sin. Can you imagine living with a birth defect or illness and being treated like someone who either was so bad they had sinned in the womb, or that their parents had done something so sinful their child would live in torment the rest of his life? Unfortunately, children live this way all over the world to this day; the victims of ignorant and murderous societies. Sometimes they live right here in America.

So for all those who bring up specific instances in the Old Testament in which entire peoples were eradicated, including children, because of the rampant sin in the culture, who then use that situation as justification to blame you for your child's illness, I have to say that person needs to spend a little more time with God and get to know His views on children a wee bit more before speaking again.

Mark 10:13-16, New International Version (NIV) 
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3
While my Matthew was allowed by God to be born with problems, and to live only a short while, just like the blind man, God's love was displayed in Matthew's brief time with us in a way that might only have been possible through his illness. We all get sick, we all die. God did not punish me through my son's illness, He blessed me through it.

I am in no way happy or glad he was born with so many challenges - don't mistake me! I am happy I was not alone in dealing with it, and I am happy so much good came out of it. For whatever reason, that was Matthew's life.

He was a blessing, not a curse.

Lord, help us to look with compassion on those who think serving you means pointing a finger of blame instead of a hand of compassion and help. Help us to know how to love someone we see as sinning. Help us to temper our criticism with remembering that there are ways we are sinning every day, that are just as hurtful to You, as what we see our neighbor doing. Help us to be sincere, to love you, and to show love to one another. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen