Monday, January 19, 2015

Sin Is the Problem

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11-22 NIV)

In the midst of the Ferguson, Missouri and New York City protests this past fall that centered on two black men being killed by white police officers, New Orleans Saints tight end, Benjamin Watson, posted his thoughts on Facebook.  It was widely covered by the media because it was a thoughtful, emotional, and honest take on the situation by a man of color.  (You can read it here.) 

What Watson said is what needs to be repeated at every Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration today: “…the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind.”

The dignitaries at today’s celebrations will speak much about the need for diversity, education, understanding, and acceptance.  They will say nothing at all about sin and God’s solution for it.  They will sing “We Shall Overcome,” but will continue to try to do so by their own strength and methods.  And the results will be the same: feel good moments and then back to the real world of hate, distrust, and separation.  It’s been that way for decades.  For the racial and ethnic hostility that afflicts our country and our world will not be solved without recognition of ultimate source and the Ultimate Solution.  

In Paul’s day, the conflict between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews of every belief and ethnicity) was raging.  There was great prejudice coming from both sides.  And into this context stepped Jesus and the Gospel.  At first, it appeared the Gospel was for the Jews only, although Jesus hinted otherwise.  And then the Gentile Cornelius experienced the Holy Spirit (Acts 10).  The reaction of the Jews to this demonstrates the depth of their prejudice: “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles” (v. 45).  

So when Paul writes to the Ephesian church about the power of the Gospel (of Jesus) to break down prejudices, he wasn’t writing sentimental fluff.  He knew the power of Jesus to transform minds and hearts because He had done so with his on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  It was and is a hard slog to put into practice because of that one big problem—SIN, as evidenced early on by Peter (Galatians 2:11-14).  Yet, just because it’s so difficult to practice doesn’t make it any less true.  

Benjamin Watson’s critique of our racial and ethnic divisions is true. The problem is SIN and the only solution is Jesus and our humble acceptance of our desperate need for Him every day in every way.  This is the only way we truly shall overcome the prejudices that afflict us.

© Jim Musser 2015

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