Exceptions that prove the rule

“If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14).

What makes a proverb a proverb is that it is generally true in most cases. This also means there could conceivably be an exception to the rule, but it would only prove the rule.

When Jesus spoke the proverbial statement above, he was warning his disciples not to blindly follow the advice and  attitudes of some of the religious hierarchy of the day because of their hypocrisy. But even he recognized that there are exceptions to it:

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Matthew 23:3).

Not everything a false teacher says is false and damning. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The Pharisees were right sometimes, too. But more often than not, their own spiritual blindness made them unworthy models to follow.

But it causes us to wonder: is it conceivable that a spiritually blind person could lead someone away from the ditch, and toward Christ?

Some years ago, I had a friend who was an unbeliever. He categorized himself as an agnostic. Yet we spent many times on break and after work talking about spiritual things. He seemed genuinely interested, but never got close to obeying the gospel.

Nonetheless, one evening at work he told me an interesting story. The night before he had been out with some friends at a bar and a religious discussion came to the surface. Disputing about different types of churches, the young man proceeded to inform them of the concept of the New Testament church, its uniqueness among churches, its unity, it distinguishing marks. I marveled as he related the details of the discussion. Here was an unbeliever, essentially evangelizing his neighbors at the bar. Perhaps I’m thinking a bit optimistically, but wouldn’t it be nice to think that at some point, either he or one of those friends might obey the gospel due to some seed that had been planted? Here was a case of the blind leading the blind, but by the grace of God, perhaps one of them might actually avoid the ditch.

In another instance, I know of a good man who attended church services for many, many years – if memory serves, at least 40. His wife was a devout Christian. His children had obeyed the gospel. He related to me that, as with the first individual, religious discussions often came up at work. Often those of varying backgrounds would argue or dispute over some matter of doctrine. Having been at the feet of gospel preaching for some 40 years, he was well aware of what the Bible said. He would occasionally insert himself into the debate and attempt to offer a different point of view (this story has a somewhat better ending; eventually, he obeyed the gospel, praise God!). But on the surface it looked like the blind was leading the blind right out of the ditch.

There are other proverbs with similar sentiment: “You cannot teach what you do not know.” Or, “You cannot lead where you will not go.” Or even, “Physician, heal thyself.”

There isn’t much reason to buy from a person who doesn’t know their product. That’s the proverb. There are exceptions, but they only prove the rule.

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