The Musings 26 by Rev.Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla
Read: John 9
It is normal for people to ascribe praise and glory to God whenever they have achieved something or received something that they consider special. When one gets a new job, or one graduates, one is verbal in thanking God. I think witnessing about how good our Lord has been to us is essential. However, can we ascribe that God has been good to us when we are victorious while God was not good to the vanquished? The context of this question is the statement by Ray Lewis of Baltimore Ravens after they won the super bowl. The statement that Ray Lewis made after the win was "If God is for you, Who can be against you". Looking at the statement at its face value "yes, God has been good to Baltimore Ravens and we need to praise God, for the victory. But does that mean God was not with San Francisco 49ers?. What about all those believers who prayed for San Francisco 49 ers and who wanted their team to win. Does it imply from the statement of Ray Lewis, that just as in the Old Testament when God fought for Israel as they fought other nation that opposed Israel, God was also fighting for Baltimore Raven that Super Bowl Sunday and he was against San Francisco 49ers?. Recently in a study released by Pubic Religion Research Institute it was stated that about 27% of Americans believed that God plays a role in determining which team wins in a major sports tournament. This implies that there are others like Ray Lewis who considers that ultimately even in a sports game, it is the Lord who decides who is the winner and who would be loser. More than God deciding who is the winner and loser of a game, what is more pertinent to ask is " Is God on the side of the winner always" as Ray Lewis proudly proclaimed?. But there is one aspect of Ray Lewis we need to acknowledge. What is commendable and noteworthy is his public expression and affirmation of his Christian faith. In one of the earlier games, after Ravens defeated Colts, Ray Lewis pulled of his Ravens jersey to reveal his sleeveless black shirt that had an inscription of Psalms 91. In a land and times when faith and faith expressions is considered a personal affair, it is noteworthy that Ray Lewis is not ashamed loudly and proudly proclaim that his life is dictated by God and all that he has achieved is because of God. As he ended his 17-year NFL career on a winning note, it was appropriate to acknowledge how God had led him through most diverse and contrasting experiences not only in football field but also off field. I think this may be the reasoning as to why Ray Lewis may have exclaimed that if God is for you who can be against you. When I read this statement, that is when lot of thoughts came to mind. If God was with Ravens on that day or was with Ray Lewis, I felt that San Francisco 49ers should not have been playing the game. Since God is on the side of Ravens, however they play they are going to lose, so the only option even if they play would be to salvage some pride and may be proudly exclaim that we played in the final of a super bowl game. We need to acknowledge the goodness of God and his grace in our life, but then I have a difference of opinion with Ray Lewis and all others who proclaim that God has been with them during victory. My faith perspective teaches me that we should not be limiting God and his purpose in terms of victory and loses in a football game, but I think we need to see the plan and purpose of God more comprehensively. Comprehensively in every aspect of human life, in the affairs of the world and in history.
In John 9 we find incident where Jesus encounters blind man. The blind man suddenly becomes the focus of a theological discussion. The disciples are inquisitive to know as to why was this man born blind. Is this man born blind because of the sins that he has committed or by his parents?. They were echoing a thinking in the Jewish law which states that " He will no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations" [Exodus 34: 6-7, Deuteronomy 5:9], but forgetting the teaching of the prophet Ezekiel, which states that "The son will not bear the punishment for father's iniquity......the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself and the wickedness for the wicked will be upon himself. [ Ezekiel 18: 20]. I think the disciples are in a frame of mind, where illness, suffering and any forms of defeat or loses are to be considered as a result because of the sins that people committed or their earlier generations committed. They also seemed to stress the fact at times of defeat, at times of suffering, God seems to be distant and God does not associate nor can be associated with such experiences. So wherever there is defeat or suffering, God is absent. It is this faith perspective that Jesus corrects. He states that neither this man nor his parents sinned, but whatever has happened in his life is to bring glory to God. Here is Jesus teaching the disciples that whatever be the experience of one life, all these experiences can help us to glorify God. Experiences of victory will be most sweetest and comfortable way of telling how good our Lord has been in our life, but to ascribe glory to God and to praise God while going through crisis, defeat and suffering is tough. To praise God and ascribe glory to God while our life is going through defeat and suffering requires much more commitment and dedication in our Christian life. As we all grapple with the thought and understanding, just as the disciples thought, the thoughts that God is only associated with victorious people, let us consciously bring in to our life the corrections in our faith perspective that Jesus wants to bring in our life. God is not be considered as One who is always on the side of the victorious people, on the contrary we can experience God, His presence and His working in every aspect of our life. Irrespective whether we are healthy or sick, irrespective whether we are victorious or defeated, irrespective whether we are crisis ridden or crisis free, God is with us and we need to praise God at all times. Just as Paul taught us let give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God [1 Thess 5:18]. It is only when we have this frame of mind, this perspective of faith can we discern the purpose and the will of God in our life at all times and circumstances. God's will, purpose and presence is revealed to us, and strengthening us in times of defeat, victory, sickness and healing. It is to this comprehensive understanding of faith that we all should build up, rather than having a faith perspective where presence of God is ascribed only on the winning side.