As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Someone who is physically and completely disabled in their eyesight, knows they are blind, but when blindness is referenced as an analogy, it implies that a person doesn’t realize their real condition.
A person who is blind in how they think and in what they claim to understand, doesn’t know that they are blind—they think they can see just fine, and that is the very substance of their disability. Jesus spoke to the devoutly religious about their belief in their own condition before God:
“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (Jn 9:41)
The Lord confronts those who accuse others of ignorance, error, sin, foolishness, and so on, but don’t turn the mirror toward themselves. Such spiritual and intellectual blindness results from an incorrect view of ourselves. Sin distorts everyone. It twists our spirits, our thoughts, and our desires toward self and away from submission to our Creator. Sin damages our eyesight, preventing us from seeing how rotten we really are before a holy God.
Everyone suffers from this distorted condition. Our natures are dark and so oriented toward sinfulness that we all are blinded to our own blindness. Education, authority, desire and money are only surpassed in depth of blindness by religion, which is why most Christians can’t even imagine that they could be blind.
Those who claim to be able to see rightly, who do not think they are handicapped by blindness, remain in their sin. This truth, declared by Jesus, applies as fully to those early Pharisees as it does to professing Christians today. The problem for many believers, is they have been lied to and told that their faith in Jesus has healed their vulnerability to blindness.
Entire you-are-good-to-go doctrines have been formed over the centuries, convincing many believers that forgiveness-of-sin is the same thing as healing-from-sin. They believe that since they have been granted forgiveness through faith in Christ, that they are already healed from their sinful nature. As a result, Christians don’t think they can be blind.
Many Churches teach the idea of a guaranteed salvation, that warnings in Scripture don’t ever apply to believers, and that the dire consequences for spiritual blindness certainly won’t ever apply to them. It is believed that blindness is someone else’s problem. Surrounding themselves with those who will say what their itching ears want to hear is what other churches do, never one’s own church–which surrounds itself with ministers who promote that denomination, and with membership requirements that require signing forms of agreement to what those leaders say should be taught.
Those passages of Scripture that speak about false ministers, distorted teachings, and rejected claims of faith in Jesus, are typically assumed to apply to the church down the road, not to us, our minister, or ourselves. That is the problem with such blindness—it prevents the person from seeking help, because they claim they have it pretty well all figured out. They think their church is closest to heaven, that their denomination is the best, that their understanding of truth is better than others.
It is true that God expects Christians to test the spirit of those who try to teach God’s word, to see whether they represent God in everything they present, but the Bible also commands believers to examine their own selves as well. The only possibility of understanding and dealing rightly with our condition is in accepting the diagnosis of our humanity as presented in Scripture. Those who understand their broken nature, their natural inclination toward hatred of God, their ongoing struggle between submitting to the Spirit of God versus surrendering to selfish desires, will approach life with humility and a fear of the Lord. Being born again doesn’t eliminate this human nature; it is transforming us in spite of it.
They will admit that forgiveness sets them free, but while they remain in this life, their nature will constantly be in conflict with the will of God. Their healing—the removal of all blindness of mind and spirit—will be granted when finally transformed at the resurrection. For now, they will admit their vulnerability to blindness.
Such a view of one’s self enables a believer to navigate faithfully, even if they can’t see everything. They are the kind who admit that they remain in need of guidance and don’t claim that they can see everything clearly at this time. They may resist the recognized error of false teachers, but they also approach themselves, their own church and pastors, with a mix of love and caution, because the blind don’t know they are blind. A humble believer knows this about themselves and all the other Christians around them.
This was the heart of the problem for the Church in Ephesus, when Jesus confronted them through the Revelation given to John. Many focus on trying to interpret what the Lord meant by them losing their “first love”, but they don’t seem to catch the double reference that directly contributed to their serious condition.
“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false…Yet I have this against you. You have forsaken your first love…But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Rev 2:2,6)
The Christians in that church were directly commended twice by God for rejecting others who claimed to be Christian, but who taught and did things that violated God’s word. Jesus “hates” the behaviors of those who think they are Christian, but who are not careful in what they believe or do. They were doing what Scripture commands upon believers in not tolerating sin or wrong beliefs in the church. They could see the sin and distorted practices of others who claimed to follow Jesus, but they were blind to their own condition. They match the blindness of the Corinthian Christians who accused fellow believers of being sinners, but couldn’t see that “you who pass judgment do the same things”.
Consider the irony. These Christians could clearly see problems in other professing Christians, but they couldn’t see their own problem. They were blind to their own blindness. And this is no small issue. Jesus commands them to repent of what he has exposed as not right in them and go back to obediently doing what they had formerly been doing. They may have been blind, but he is now exposing a dark detail in their natural condition, and they have been put on notice of a dire consequence of separation from being with the Lord, if they think they can stay as they are.
Those Ephesian Christians who may have thought they were guaranteed salvation with the Lord, even if they refused to repent of this newly revealed sin, to which they had been blinded, would remain under sin, and would die in their blindness. Those Christians today, who have swallowed the doctrinal lie that they can’t ever lose their salvation, are blinded by their own beliefs, much like those who claim “But Lord, Lord”.
Those who are blind, don’t know what they don’t know. The key is not knowing your are blind in some area, but in knowing that you can be blind without recognizing it. Those who know this about themselves, will constantly turn the mirror toward themselves, humbling themselves in recognition of the sin that so easily entangles—that sin of blindness to our own wretched tendency to think more of our self-goodness than we ought to.
The solution is not trying to eliminate blindness, but rather submit to the constant leading and course-corrections of the Spirit. We view ourselves with distrust–in constant need of discipline and healing. We view God as the only one possessing goodness and truth. We view our churches and leaders as worthy of honor, while just as likely as ourselves to being blind without realizing it. We resist the natural tendency to hid our condition with fig leaves, and instead we allow ourselves to be exposed to the humiliating light of correction from the Spirit of the Lord.
The disability of blindness is a natural human problem, humbling to be sure, but not something to be ashamed of. We can’t see what we can’t see. Admit it. Let the Lord be your light. As he shines more specifically into your life, change. Correct your course. Allow your doctrines and claims to be tested, exposed, and even corrected to come in closer alignment with the truth of God.
Those who are more intent on saving their history, their church, their ministry, their denominational beliefs, their reputation, their beliefs, their own lives—remain blind. Those who fix their eyes on what cannot be seen, have the eyes of the Spirit and can navigate that straight and narrow path to the glories that await the faithful at the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.