Earlier this week, I found this post that Pastor Trey Ferguson wrote a year ago. It stuck in my mind and I’ve been thinking about it all week. I’ve heavily excerpted it, to the parts that have been making me think. (You should probably go read the whole thing; there may be other parts that speak to you.)
When personal piety alone is the key to discerning and overcoming sin, we have missed the plot.
When we fail to think of sin as something that surrounds us in both individual and communal ways, we have failed to grasp the fullness of the gospel. It is one thing if Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection were a means to teaching us self control. That news is not as good as we have been led to believe. It is an entirely different matter if Jesus’s execution (having been declared by the cooperation of a religious establishment that had begun to work in concept with an imperial state) was nullified by His Resurrection and began a movement of people who would no longer accept the status quo peacefully.
Sin is bigger than how we govern ourselves on a personal level. In truth, the sins that we are prone to committing individually are often a result of the sinful systems and environments that we have been born into. In that way, we are products of our environment. This truth is affirmed by the Psalmist who acknowledges being born and shaped in sin. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that we do not have to stay that way.
In following Jesus, we can speak truthfully to and about the traditions and practices of both our religion and whoever may be governing our homeland at the time. We can say “you do not get to determine your freedom at my expense.” The way of Jesus says that wholeness is the goal, and not control. Jesus, being the Good Shepherd speaks to a flock that recognizes that, yes – sometimes our wholeness requires us looking beyond our individual desires so that our gain does not come at the cost of someone else’s loss. Liberty is not a zero sum game. Jesus speaks in a way that acknowledges the shortcomings of many current traditions (even as practiced by those with “orthodox” theologies) because the way of Jesus recognizes that traditions that do not serve the Beloved of God do not serve the God of the Beloved.
So, when I think about sin, I try to think about more than just the things we feel shame about and desire to hide. I think about the society we live in, and the many broken people it creates.
I thank God that Jesus didn’t stay dead, and that we do not have to accept such a reality as “the way things are”.
I thank God that, through Jesus of Nazareth, there is victory over sin.