So, what is sin? Individual, society or systemic? Huh? Why “or” ?
The division within the church on sin and redemption…. Why do “we” fight over sin being individual, society or systemic and not all?
In admittedly simplistic presentation, I submit this paragraph. There has been much divide in the past century – more divisiveness within the church than about anytime in history. There was a divide over reliability of the Word, and then a divide on “what is it to be a Christian” and “what is it to be the church”. The former was conservative versus liberal, and the battle circled around fights over relying on God’s Word, and therefore the efficacy of Christ’s work to redeem people to salvation – what it takes to go to heaven… The conservatives centred on Jesus’ work saves us, and we are to believe in faith. The liberals position circled around being good people and God’s Word being a guide, but not literal. This fight widened to the conservatives embracing “what we think” and the liberals embracing doing good things in society. Outside of this fight within western Europe, the UK and North America, was the theological developments through the developing world, which was awakening to the implications of massive colonialism, and the government manipulations. They began seeing the corporate systemic sins, and how God did not like this. They centred their theology on this experience.
All of this divided the church and dismissed the others. My issue is as one who holds to God’s Word being reliable, and yes, within literature genres but also in context of culture, circumstance and the weighing of God’s Word in the “whole counsel of God”… in other words, you must look at all of what God says implicitly and explicitly. What is meant is god flat tells us something very directly… do this, don’t do this. BUT there are clearly implied issues as well – where God tells us what He thinks and expects by how often He talks about it, how much it is weighed out in the actions of people.
The result is that God’s Word addresses our individual salvation (dealing with individual sin), but also dealing with systemic sins (where injustice is legitimised, codified and made “legal” or even “moral” by consensus or decree), and also the behaviour of individual saints and churches, and the whole church in being like Christ in how it engages people, individually and society. In summary, all is correct and part of what it is to be the church.
I’ve faced direct attack, and been dropped from financial support because I hold this position. If I talk about systemic sin by our society, if I talk about our “being like Christ” in loving and blessing people in simple sacrificial love, and I fail to talk solely or directly about individual sin, if I fail to discuss intellectual “think right” Bible Studies, then I’ve faced being labelled a liberal or social Gospel Christian. I resist these labes, because each is heresy without the other; each incomplete and to label one is to ignore or dismiss the other. Yet, there is so much implicit and explicit in God’s Word to address all three means of sanctification of the believer. We are called to individually be sanctified by believing, but this believing is never seen measured by having every detail in theology straight, but in the behaviour of the saint in trusting Christ by how the saint behaves towards others – social and systemic sanctification… how we love people practically and collectively as a society.
There is a lot of room for the church and for Christians to be speak prophetically, and to be behave prophetically in our individual and collective lives. This is not license to be ugly and repeatedly battling the society, as is so common today. Rather, the call is to be counter-to-the-culture, live differently; to shine as lights, be salt, be a fragrance – each of which is a positive experience for the world who encounters the church and believers.
So, may we not be in frontal combat with the world, but let us be a sweet fragrance, salt to enhance the taste, and bright to light up contrasting darkness. May we be the defenders who give preference for the disenfranchised, under resourced and oppressed, the poor, weak and vulnerable. May we not embrace Babylon’s system of power, or forcing Christ’s Kingdom on the world – Christ rebuked that when He was arrested in the garden that last night. Let us be the suffering people who redeem people through our humility, lives resisting sin, a people making a difference in society by bringing healing and as a church working for the Kingdom’s value lived out in changing the systemic wrongs.