How Do You Know if Someone is Suffering Because of Their Own Sins?

The following is a written preview of our new Q&A style podcast where Pastor Foley takes questions related to the Whole Life Offering discipleship training model. Subscribe now!

Q: In the story of the man who was born blind in John 9:1-7, Jesus’ disciples ask him why it is the man is blind – was it his own sin or the sin of his parents? In The Message Bible, Jesus’ response is “You’re asking the wrong question.” Is that a good paraphrase?  Is it ever the wrong question to ask if someone is suffering because of their own sins?

A: It’s a great question!  It’s one that has been asked for more than twenty centuries, across all different contexts, regardless of culture or time period.  Jesus’ response to the question doesn’t de-legitimize the question, but instead introduces “Option C” into the mix.

Option A is that this happened because the person sinned. Option B is that this happened because of an environmental condition, related to a sin that came from that person’s family. Jesus says, “No, it’s Option C. The whole world is set up in such a way that my acting through it brings everything to completion.”

So, it’s never wrong to ask that question. In fact, it’s very much the right question and we should expect that it is the kind of question that much of the world is setup in order to be able to ask.

Q: So we’ve got the three options, but how would we know the right answer?  When we look at somebody who is suffering, how would we know when the answer is, “Because of their sin”?

A: One way to look at the question is to ask, “how would we respond differently depending on what we found out?” In other words, maybe knowledge is not the overriding criteria.

One of the themes we developed this month was that regardless of whether we’re healed or not, we enter into a time of whole-body prayer that is focused not only on our physical illness, but our reliance upon God. We don’t just pray for the sick person, but the sick person is praying with us; and not only for themselves, but the for the needs of other people.

Well, part of any kind of whole-body prayer is going to be the process of confession and as it says in 1 John, if we say that we have no sin, then the truth is not in us. So, Jesus uncouples that automatic  connection between illness and sin.  There’s a connection between  illness, sin and death, but Jesus removes the volitional part of that which says, “I’m the root cause of this,” which gives us far too much credit.

Submit your questions to Pastor Foley by posting a comment or emailing us at [email protected].

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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