Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sin and Nations

In his book Justification, N. T. Wright points out that in ancient Jewish thinking,

"'Transgression . . . is the actual breaking of the law, whereas 'sin' is any missing-of-the-mark, any failure to live as a genuine human being, whether or not the law is there to point it out." (p. 119)

The modern nation-states of our world, by their nature, focus on self-interest. Survival and prosperity are the highest priorities of nations, and the citizens of those nations expect their governments to pursue those ends.

Some nation-states are global transgressors, violating human rights and intentionally flaunting their perceived sovereignty to the detriment of other people groups. But all nation-states are subject to sin.

Because of the focus on self-interest, all nation-states will inevitably fall into sin. When the ultimate priority is self, whether as individual persons or as nations—sin will result. It misses the mark of God's intention.

But modern nation-states are organized that way, and that's just the way it is. Only one body of people in the history of the world has come into existence for the sake of the rest of the world rather than itself: The People of God. God's call to Abram in Genesis 12 sets the stage for that new people, and results in the creation of ancient Israel and, ultimately, the dispersed people we call followers of Jesus:

"Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’" (Genesis 12:1-3)

Followers of Jesus dispersed throughout all the nations of the world can love their respective countries without deifying them, because they are free to recognized the inherent sin in the construct of nation-states. More importantly, followers of Jesus can remember that they remain, primarily, citizens of another kind of people, a people destined to bless all the families of the earth. We are, as pointed out in the New Testament book of First Peter, ". . . a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (I Peter 2:9).

We are the only people on earth who exist not for our own sake, but for the sake of others.

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