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By Mitiku Adisu

Emergence of a set of problems often point to a deeper problem. There was, for example, a debt ceiling confrontation that went on for weeks between US political parties and the President. Each knew what needed to be done to resolve the problem but none were prepared to do the right thing. Instead each blamed and maligned the other side - and history - to get a sizable segment of the public behind them. Each side engaged in a deadly fight for what is right in their own eyes. It is all about self-interest (pride, greed, hate-mongering) couched in ever creative patriotic, legal, religious, and refined phrases. We bet you know what that is called? S-I-N. SIN.

And just last week there were riots and looting in Britain where children as young as ten were observed taking part. With economic downturn and the Cameron government slashing funding to social services, it is not surprising that poor neighborhoods are relatively hit hard and hence the locus of the incident. What is interesting is the manner in which politicians, the media, and scholars of all stripes spewed phrases and words to describe the agitated communities. “Troubled youth,” “poverty,” “greed”; “anarchists,” “materialism,” “lawlessness,” “no sense of right and wrong,” “freeloaders,” “entitlement mentality,” and “migrant populations” (though the truth is that there were also white families). Some harked back to the glory days of well-mannered British society. Others questioned and condemned the Church who they contended ought to have been the guardian and nurturer of right and and wrong. Hardly anyone mentioned S-I-N. The reason for that is that the word is mistaken for condemning people and infringing on their rights. Today, sin is sanitized beyond recognition. And there lay the problem--with implications for all of us individually and collectively.

It was only in mid-July that the global media baron Murdoch voice-hacking scandal broke out. I hope we still remember the news of Members of Parliament engaging in lies, petty theft, and corruption? Or about bankers and Industry Bosses who felt entitled to obscene millions in benefits in total disregard for their social and moral responsibilities. We can go on and on and on. The police. Physicians. Research scientists. Athletes. Clergy. Atheists.

All to say, the problem is deep and not confined to a social class or epoch or culture--and not yet ameliorated by technological advancements. If anything, it was as CS Lewis said, “The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.”

We believe the most important aspect of addressing this problem is, firstly, to identify it for what it is and, secondly, to seek a remedy. And Jesus of Nazareth has offered the remedy: Himself. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (The Gospel of John 1:29). We came across the passages quoted below in John Stott’s book, Basic Christianity (originally published in 1958, pp.76, 113-114) and wanted to share with you and at the same time honor Stott's life. God bless you. Here we go:

“The history of the last hundred years or so has convinced many people that the problem of evil is located in human beings themselves, not merely in human society. The nineteenth century saw a flourishing of liberal optimism. It was widely believed that human nature was fundamentally good, that evil was largely caused by ignorance and bad housing, and that education and social reform would enable people to live together in happiness and goodwill. But this illusion has been shattered by the hard facts of history. Educational opportunities have spread rapidly throughout the world, and many welfare states have been created. But our human capacity to get it wrong seems undaunted. The persistence of conflict on the world stage and the widespread denial of human rights, together with the general increase of violence and crime, have forced thoughtful people to acknowledge that a hard core of selfishness exists in each and every one of us.

Much that we take for granted in a ‘civilized’ society is actually based upon the assumption of human sin. Nearly all legislation has grown up because we simply cannot be trusted to settle our disputes with justice and without self-interest. A promise is not enough; we need a contract. Doors are not enough; we have to lock and bolt them. The payment of fares is not enough; tickets have to be issued, inspected, and collected. Law and order are not enough; we need the police to enforce them. All this is due to our sin. We cannot trust each other. We need protection against one another. It is a terrible indication of what human nature is really like…

As we begin to reflect on the cross, we can begin to understand the terrible implications of these words. At twelve noon ‘darkness came over the whole land’ that continued for three hours until Jesus died. With the darkness came silence, for no eye should see, and no lips could tell, the agony of soul that the spotless Lamb of God was now enduring. The accumulated sins from the whole of human history were laid upon him. Voluntarily he bore them in his own body. He made them his own. He took full responsibility for them.

And then in desolate spiritual abandonment a cry was wrung from his lips, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ It was a quotation from the first verse of Psalm 22… He quoted this verse from the Bible… because he believed that he himself was fulfilling it. He was bearing our sins. And God whose ‘eyes were too pure to look on evil’ and who ‘cannot tolerate wrong’ turned his face away. Our sins came between the Father and the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ, who was eternally with the Father, who enjoyed unbroken communion with him throughout his life on earth, was momentarily abandoned. Our sins sent Christ to hell. He tasted the agony of a soul alienated from God. Bearing our sins, he died our death. He endured instead of us the penalty of separation from God that our sins deserved.

Then at once emerging from that outer darkness, he cried out in triumph, ‘It is finished,’ and finally, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And so he died. The work he had come to do was completed. The salvation he had come to win was accomplished. The sins of the world had been carried away. Reconciliation to God was available to all who would trust this Savior for themselves and receive him as their own. Immediately, as if to demonstrate this truth publicly, the unseen hand of God tore down the curtain in the Temple. It was no longer needed. The way into God’s holy presence was no longer barred. Christ had ‘opened the gate of heaven to all believers.’ And thirty-six hours later he was raised from the dead, to prove that he had not died in vain.” END

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [Gospel of John 3:16]
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. [Romans 3:23-25]
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [2 Corinthians 5:21]
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest [Matthew 11:28].
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. [1 John 1: 5-8]


Anonymous said…
Thank you for this thoughtful post. I would like to make a comment about education: yes, we are very educated at the same time when society seems to become increasingly corrupt and decadent. However, it would seem that the American public school system (and universities) has experienced a decline also: academically, morally, and regarding political bias and a certain anti-Christian attitude. American education used to assume an acceptance of Christian values; now these values are considered relative or are ridiculed as hateful.
Thanks Aunt Melanie for the comment. You are right about the failing education system. We [and the world] are reaping the consequences because our leaders refuse to be governed by such cherished values as honesty, accountability, fairness, fear of God, etc. Worse, the church community is beset by worldly values. We need to begin to earnestly seek the face of the Lord in prayer and penitence. We are called to be salt and light, as you well know. May the Lord help us.

Isn't your quilt lovely?