“The line between good and evil runs not between ‘us’ and ‘them’ but through every individual and every society.”1
If this is true, then this line between good and evil does not separate humanity into different groups, but instead, it connects us. We are all dots with the same line running through us. If we remembered this, Facebook would be much more bearable especially during elections.
Affirming this idea of connectedness with all of humanity does not rob us of conviction and thus leave us floundering relativists unable to tell the difference between any of our actions. It does not mean our own guilt prevents us from recognizing the evil that others commit. What it does do is drive home one of the most necessary and fundamental convictions needed to follow the way of Jesus.2 Humility allows us to see this line between good and evil that runs through us. When we admit that this line is there, a nearsighted gospel will not do.
A nearsighted gospel is one which allows us to sing songs and “amen” sermons that praise God for His forgiveness of our sins as individuals and yet fails to remind us of the collective guilt of which we are still a part.
Your forgiveness is real and true, but even though you are now orienting your life toward the way of Jesus it does not negate the fact that you have added some amount of trash to the landfills of life as we know it. A nearsighted gospel allows us to acknowledge our personal sin and yet forget our connectedness to all of humanity.
When we forget this connectedness, the next act of violence or injustice that catches the headlines will result in us redrawing the self-deceiving line between “us” and “them.” We will rehash the same old arguments, in the same old groups and get the same old answers. When we see ourselves as completely disconnected from the wrong positons or evil actions of others, we are ineffective in bringing change. The truth is that any positon on having guns or banning them, outlawing abortion or justifying it, building a wall or sending immigrants away, giving to the poor or creating entitlement, fails to address the underlying dilemma of our perpetual and collective sin. A nearsighted gospel allows us to thank God for our forgiven sins and remove ourselves from continued ownership of the mess.
When we see ourselves as still connected to the good and evil of society as a whole and not only as saved individuals, we understand the Gospel points towards and speaks to the healing of the nations.3 Only then, when the next atrocity occurs, will we feel the heart wrenching tug of the line between good and evil that runs through us collectively. Only then, will we be motivated to move beyond the hollow laws of our society and engage this good and evil at its core.
The crises of the world are our crises.
So when violence, greed and injustice fill the news, may it cause us to remember our collective guilt. May this collective guilt keep us from only thanking God for our personal forgiveness, but cause us as forgiven people to be driven into the chaos of life and to be motivated by personal obligation to authentically and humbly engage the crises we helped create.
1 N.T. Wright (I can’t remember which book, ok?)
2 Luke 18:10-14, Matthew 7:3-5 (and a bunch more)
3 Revelation 22:2