Wednesday 30 August 2017

Bible Book:

“And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement…” (v. 1)

John 16:8-11 Wednesday 30 August 2017

Psalm: Psalm69:30-36


In some recent public discussion about 'Britishvalues', the notion of tolerance has often been held up as key.It's not always clear exactly what is (and isn't) meant by thatword. But in a culture that claims tolerance as a core value, itmight be quite difficult to speak publicly, faithfully andhelpfully, about "sin and righteousness and judgement'.

All three of these core Christian ideas can easilybe understood negatively. 'Sin' can evoke ideas of shame and guilt;'righteousness' can easily be heard prefaced by 'self-'; and'judgement' can quickly morph into 'judgemental' - which is never apositive way to describe someone!

It's probably also true to say that some of thenarrow and irresponsible ways the language of sin and judgementhave been used historically in Christian preaching and pastoralcare have contributed to this negative perception.

To focus on just one of these key concepts andconvictions (perhaps the relative toxicity of the language of'sin') means that Christian believers and church leaders steer awayfrom addressing it - with the danger that the residue of negativeassociations and narrow understandings will continue to shape howit's thought about when does occurs (such as in today's Biblepassage).

In classical Christian thought, sin is primarilyunderstood corporately - as a shared fracture in our human nature:there's something in humanity as a whole that's 'broken', which hasto do with our relationship to our maker and takes shape inparticular ways in individual lives, relationships andcommunities.

In a culture that can seem to prefer an 'I'm ok,you're ok' understanding of human nature, we can find ourselvesbereft of tools for understanding and dealing with all that's not'ok' - the senseless violence, casual cruelties and moralindifference that shape many of the ways we relate to one another,from the global to the most intimate. 'I'm ok, you're ok' riskssimply leaving us where, and as, we are.

To speak of a God who deals in and with sin andjudgement might not be to proclaim a despotic and accusing deity,but to announce good news: that God, as God, cannot and will notsimply leave me, and us, and all this as they are.

To Ponder

  • Do you think Christian accounts of sin still have purchase? Isthere a difference inside the Church and outside it? If so, what doyou think this is?
  • What new ways might be needed to express what Christian faithmeans by 'sin', which avoid the potentially alienating language andassociations?
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