The other day, I suddenly found myself sympathizing with Cinderella’s evil step-sisters: two not-so-attractive girls whose mother was a very poor role-model, living in a society that valued a singular type of beauty over any other. Those girls just wanted a prince of their own—someone to love them and take care of them, to track them down just to return a missing shoe, to whisk them off to a better life. Really, you can’t blame them for trying so hard to fit their size-10 feet into a size-6 shoe. (Yeah, yeah, I know they didn’t need a prince to live fulfilling, successful lives. Just keep reading.)
Remember how the shoe pops off one girl’s foot and flies through the air with the Duke chasing after it? That image from Disney’s animated Cinderella came to my mind this morning as I finished up my quiet time. No, it wasn’t simply that my mind wandered.
As Jesus and his disciples passed a blind man, they asked Jesus a weird question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2). The prevailing religious opinion of the day stated that any affliction or problem you experienced was the result of some sin in your life or the lives of your family members. Even in our modern, scientific era, this is an easy trap, but Jesus immediately contradicts it—for that time and for today. He said the man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him (v. 3).
From here on out in the Biblical account, we need to watch for the “works of God” that are displayed. Obviously, the healing is God’s work, but that’s done by verse seven. So why did John include verses eight through thirty-four? Because God has more work to display in this situation.
An uneducated, formerly blind man
schools the Pharisees in their
own religious system!
The Pharisees heard about this miracle and decided to investigate…as long as it didn’t require them to leave the temple (assuming Jesus was still in Jerusalem). The formerly blind man told his story. The man’s parents told their story but deflected back to the healed man. The man told his story again. The man got impatient with the Pharisees’ repeated questions. I love his sarcastic tone in this part. Read verses 30-33 aloud in your best smart-aleck voice. This guy was a beggar and certainly uneducated. He couldn’t even see until Jesus came by, and yet he schools the Pharisees in their own religious system! Of course, they still refuse to acquiesce.
The Pharisees had their own well-established ideas about who the Messiah was going to be, how He was going to act, and what He was going to do (John 7:27, 41). Jesus didn’t fit that mold. He caused the blind to see, a clear prophecy of the Messiah (e.g. Isaiah 35:5), but He did it on the Sabbath, a violation of Pharisaical law. He prophesied, but He lambasted the Pharisees. They just could not accept that He had come to save them because He didn’t match their idea of a Savior.
Jesus’ foot didn’t fit
the Messiah-sized shoe
the Pharisees were holding.
See where I’m going with the glass slipper thing here? Jesus’ foot didn’t fit the Messiah-sized shoe the Pharisees were holding. But unlike Cinderella’s step-sisters, Jesus didn’t try to force the issue. He was comfortable running barefoot through the grass and leaving the Pharisees standing there holding that fragile shoe with a stunned look on their faces.
This was the work of God: to take salvation out of religious works, out of a set of unfulfillable laws. You know we’re like the Pharisees—all of us. (Some more than others…but still.) We get these preconceived notions of what faith should look like in real life, what church should be, how God should work in our lives. See all those shoulds? They’re a sure sign of presumption every time! Among other things (like our salvation by grace through faith), the work of God is to pull us out of those notions, to break down those barriers, to show Himself bigger than our religious, human-centered boxes…or glass slippers. Faith doesn’t fit a set of standards. Yes, you can test it against Scripture. Yes, community is the best context for living out the Christ-life. But we must break out of the one-size-fits-most pressure about how God can or will act and about how Christ-followers “should” dress, think, work, and live.
To Cinderella’s step-sisters, I want to say, Be patient. If God has a prince for you, he will come, and he’ll present you with a shoe that fits perfectly. He’ll think you’re beautiful and funny, and he’ll look into your eyes like there’s no one else in the world. In the meantime (or instead), enjoy squishing your toes in the mud and running barefooted through the grass with me!
To the rest of us, I suggest we stop trying to wedge our size-8½ feet (at least for me) into a size-6 glass slipper. The same day the Holy Spirit drew my mind to glass slippers, I also read this article by Michelle Van Loon about peer pressure at church. I’m okay with you and your size-7 if you’re okay with me and my 8½. Instead of trying to fit into a shoe that’s going to be uncomfortable anyway, let’s all just run barefooted through the grass, chasing after Jesus.
Have you felt the toe-cramping pressure to fit a faith community’s image of “good” Christian? I sure have. Have you mentally doubted another’s faith because that person didn’t fit your preconceived notion of Christian? I’ve done that, too. Please share (comments below) anything that’s on your mind after reading this.
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