In John 9:2, Jesus disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
They were trying to figure out the cause of the ailment, but their question reflected a pagan understanding of healing and sickness.
Underpinning this question is the heretical idea of retribution theology
Retribution theology says that there is a direct connection between a person’s deeds, and their state of being. Essentially, it says, if I am healthy, God is pleased with me and my actions. If I am unhealthy, I have done something to deserve punishment… or somebody else (parents in this case) has done something, and I am being punished on their behalf.
Let me be clear. This is not how Jesus operates. This is not the God of the Christian bible, and anybody that teaches retribution theology, is misrepresenting God.
The pagan gods of the biblical era operated this way… not the Christian God.
One of the primary pagan gods of the ancient near east was “Baal.” As essential element of worship to Baal was child sacrifice. It was the usual way of getting the attention of this god.
Essentially, Baal worship says…
If I sacrifice, then god will bless me
If I don’t, god will curse me.
When God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac (Gen 22) he was drawing a distinction between himself and the other gods. His goodness was not predicated on our sacrifice or misery; he didn’t require reciprocity.
Retribution theology looks like this…
You had sex before marriage, therefore you had a miscarriage
You prayed for 1 hour per day, therefore God blessed you financially
You didn’t tithe, so your children walked away from the LORD
You were a porn addict, so God took away your job.
Obviously, I am not condoning sex before marriage and porn addiction. Obviously, you should be generous and pray, but following Jesus is not a system of formulas or mathematical equations… it is a relationship.
Correlation, not cause
It is fair and true to say there is a correlation between obedience and blessing
It is fair and true to say there is a correlation between disobedience and hardship
But a correlation is not a cause
Your obedience does not cause God to bless you, your disobedience doesn’t cause God to afflict you.
This natural consequence of correlation is the principle of sewing and reaping in play, not retribution. This is a very important distinction (read Gal 6:1-10 to explore this further).
Here is the scary truth
Much of our western Christian theology of healing is pagan, not Christian.
What was Jesus answer to the disciple’s earlier question?
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
The was no indication to the cause of the blindness
Jesus says this happened so God’s goodness could be displayed. The healing was a demonstration of grace from Jesus to his undeserving son. He shown light in darkness, and it gave glory to God.
Although my bipolar happened. My Bipolar is not a result of my sin, my parents sin, or anybody else’s.
I don’t know why, or how it happened, but I try to give myself over to Jesus daily and trust that he can use my life to bring him glory.
See, one of our downfalls in our culture is that we can’t live in tension. We are so black and white and need an answer for everything.
What if sickness and illness just happens?
What if there is no answer?
Like Paul, we can ask for it to be taken away, but what if brokenness isn’t a riddle to figure out, but a thorn to live with (2 Cor 12:7-10).
If my bipolar was a demon, I would go get deliverance
If my bipolar was a result of my sin, I would repent and be done with it
There is more to the story than a simple tick box. Mental illness is complex, and to reduce it to fit into a pagan formula cheapens the discussion.
In Jesus and Mental Health