Written by: Rev. Edwin Arrison
5th meditation for Lent 2019
Can or should Christians distinguish between SIN and sins, or between “systemic sin” on the one hand and what could be called “petty sins” on the other. Is the church focusing too much on petty sins and ignoring systemic sin? St Paul writes about powers and principalities, which could be rephrased as “systemic sin”.
A story is told of a preacher who said in his sermon that “Tonight 3 million children will go to bed hungry, and we Christians don’t give a damn about that!”. Of course most of his listeners were shocked that he used the word “damn” and almost did not hear that 3 million children will go to bed hungry. Our spirituality has duped us into focussing on petty sins (swearing etc) rather than on systemic sin.
What is more, is that those who steal a bread is more often being sinned-against than sinning. The good news about systemic sin is that it is being designed and implemented by human beings, and therefore can also be redesigned and the new design can be implemented. What is strange however is that it is those outside of the church or outside of the official faith community who most often start and support movements against systemic sin. They hear the message about the Gospel being good news for the poor more clearly than those who are in the church.
Jesus actually came with a message about a different system. He called it the ‘kingdom or reign of God”. The young people mentioned above live that kingdom now while most Christians think the kingdom is something you go to when you physically die. The system that allows a few people to own half the world’s wealth is a system that is sinful. That system then excludes the world’s poor even from their own resources. How often does Africa’s resources not leave Africa? How often do these multinationals not avoid paying tax and want to look good by having charity events?
It is time to empower Christians to focus on systemic sin and to work with those who are fighting it rather than try to be “pure” and only pray rather than getting our hands dirty (or is it clean?).
This is Part 5 of a series.