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Here is the recording of our most recent worship service…
March 26, 2017
4th Sunday in Lent
“A Case of Conversion Disorder”
I stumbled on to a new insight into a Bible story that I have read and studied for years. It’s the story of Jesus healing the man who had been blind from birth (John 9:1-41). My insight is nothing deep, it’s just an insight that took me by surprise. It has to do with my roles as a pastor and as a mental health counselor.
The story starts with Jesus and his disciples walking along and noticing a man who had been born blind. He lived his life as a beggar and was known simply as “the man who . . .sits and begs.” The disciples ask Jesus about the cause of the man’s blindness – “who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus moves the question out of the arena of sin and into the arena of God’s power. Following an ancient tradition of the use of human spittle mixed with earthly elements and the direction to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, the blind man followed the Great Physician’s directions and he experienced complete healing.
Now enter the Pharisees, the great protectors of traditional thought patterns. They decided a few years prior that Jesus was a threat to their understanding of the status quo. If the masses took Jesus seriously, their power and influence and wealth would be weakened. The Pharisees would have nothing to do with the miraculous healings that were being reported as occurring through the prayers and the power of Jesus.
The Pharisees believed that no one who was born blind could ever see again. Either this was not the real blind beggar or else he was never really blind. Now here is my insight. The Pharisees were speaking of a psychological disorder which we know as “conversion disorder.” It is sometimes applied to patients who present with neurological symptoms, such as numbness, blindness or paralysis but with no organic cause. These people also do not appear to be “faking it.” They are in serious distress.
The Pharisees realize that if they acknowledge Jesus’ healing power, He may indeed be the Messiah. But if this is true, then their hold on the power structure will be seriously challenged. What a terrible plight for the Pharisees.
Some of the Pharisees pointed their fingers at Jesus and claimed he was a charlatan – “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” The blind man merely has a conversion disorder – he could not have been blind from birth, they thought.
Now here is my insight – the blind man may have been born blind or perhaps he developed a conversion disorder at a very young age. Either way, his blindness was “converted” into sight and his futility about life was “converted” into a new sense of meaning and purpose. But what about those Pharisees? They encountered the power of God in Jesus Christ and still they remained spiritually blind. They would not allow their hearts to be converted.
So who really has “A Case of Conversion Disorder” . . . the Pharisees or the blind man?
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