Navigating a world of spiritual blindness

In his classic short story "The Country of the Blind", H.G. Wells told of an Andean mountaineer by the name of Nunez, who accidentally fell off a precipice and landed in a deep snowbank in a remote valley.

To his surprise, he beheld a cluster of stone huts standing in continuous rows on either side of a central street. The facades of the huts were pieced with doors, but no windows.

He saw some men carrying pails and called to them. They turned their ears toward the sound of his voice, but Nunez noticed that their eyelids were closed and sunken as if there were no eyeballs.

He was escorted through the door of a hut into a room that was pitch black. There were many voices calling to him from the dark, asking questions about who he was and how he happened to be in their village. His answers were met with great skepticism as he tried to explain the world from which he had come.

As he conversed with these elders in the dark, he realized that not only were they blind, but everyone else in the small village was sightless as well. After settling in this remote valley, a disease spread through these people, robbing them of sight. All the subsequent generations were born sightless, and for 14 generations these people had been cut off from the seeing world.

Nunez was amazed at watching and listening to these people describe their lives. Their sense of touch, hearing and smell was acute, and they developed a whole way of life based on their blindness. They made much of music and singing. They called the day "the warm," and the night "the cool." They adopted names for the animals and vegetation based on touch, smell and hearing. They insisted that he must be led like a child, because that was the way they related to one another.

The more Nunez tried to describe the beauty of a sunrise, a sunset, the color of flowers or the majesty of the Andes that encircled their valley, the greater the ire of these villagers became. They did not believe him, and considered him to be a threat to their way of life.

He fell in love with a beautiful maiden of the village and wanted to marry her.But if Nunez wanted to dwell with them, the elders demanded that his eyes be removed. When he refused, they tried to kill him, but he was able to avoid their awkward attempts and escape by climbing the rock walls surrounding the valley. As he laid exhausted, bruised and bloodstained, he gazed at the beauty of the starlit sky, and gave thanks for his escape from "the country of the blind."

This story should serve as an illustration, and not as a criticism of those who are visually challenged. It should illustrate the tragedy of spiritual blindness that permeates our culture. To be spiritually blind is far worse than having your natural sight impaired.

In many scriptural reference, we are told that our isolation from God has produced a spiritual blindness (Ephesians 4:18). Isaiah described his culture as being like blind men groping along a wall (59:10). They had no idea what they were doing, the consequences of their decisions and solutions to their problems.

In Matthew 15:14, Jesus called the religious leaders of his day, "blind leaders of the blind." Jesus said he came into our world as "light" (sight) in the darkness (blindness) or our world, and was rejected because, like the villagers of the remote valley of the blind, his description of another world was threatening to the way of life that generations of sinners had established (John 3:19-21). That's why they tried to kill him. 

My heart is compassionate toward those who are physically blind. One of my dearest friends suffered from blindness the latter part of his life. But he had spiritual insight. Like many other believers who have lost their natural sight, he realized Jesus came as God's healing for our spiritual blindness.

He learned to take the nail-scarred hand of a compassionate Savior, and enter the beaitufl world of God's grace and forgiveness, where he could really see life as God meant for it to be!