Sin vs Righteousness in the Social and Political Spheres

By Mo Johnson (Montclair, VA)

At its heart, sin is always about selfishness. Putting our interests over those of others -- and God. Therefore, the opposite of sin (righteousness) is sacrifice (putting the interests of others over our own).

That's what Jesus did for us and what we should strive to do in all areas of our lives.

We all understand how this works on a personal level. How we are to be kind and loving towards our neighbor, etc. Of course we often don't do that, but at least we all understand the concept.

But, rarely do we think about how it applies in the social sphere. How should a christian understanding of sin and righteousness impact how christians and the Church interact with society; especially in matters of public policy (politics).

Today we are fortunate to live in a democratic country where the people (including christians) get to have a large say in how society is organized and what its values are. The early church was not so fortunate as they had no say in how Rome ran the government. In contrast, we have a big say. In fact, surveys say most Americans consider themselves christians. Therefore, our democratically elected government should reflect the christian principles of opposing sin and supporting righteousness.

So, how does this work practically? Actually, in most cases it's more clear-cut and simple than we often think. For the christian, most social/political issues, at their heart, come down to choosing sin or righteousness.

Many christians focus on abortion and homosexuality as the most important social/political issues for them. However, for most christians, there is no sacrifice involved in the positions they take. For the most part they are not personally having to sacrifice anything to pronounce their "pro-life" and/or "anti-gay marriage" beliefs. In fact, often the reasons they give for their positions are selfish reasons -- alleging that their tax money is being spent on abortions or that gays are receiving favorable tax treatment (a dubious claim in the first place, but I won't go into that here).

Nevertheless, my main point is that, for most christians, taking positions on abortion and homosexuality involve no personal sacrifice and thus, by definition cannot be (for them at least) righteous positions.

It is hypocritical and cowardly for christian leaders to condemn homosexuals and women who get abortions and yet not comment on the much more common and serious sins of selfishness so obvious all around them. The abortion and homosexual issues have been used by many to construct a theology and social/political outlook that allows them to promote sin and unrighteousness, all the while feeling righteous.

It's worth noting that Jesus never talked about abortion or homosexuality; yet He did say that those who don't care for the poor and weak will not enter heaven. In Revelations we read that God will "destroy those who destroy the earth". Yet, on those much more significant and common sins that even (often especially) christians are guilty of -- too many leaders of "christian" churches are silent about.

It's time for christians to join together on issues that do actually require sacrifice and therefore promote righteousness. The issues, of course, are the many, many social/political issues facing us all relating to whether we will promote social/political policies to help lift up the poor, the oppressed, the stranger (immigrants), the sick (health care), God's creation (environmentalism), and it goes on and on. Each of those issues would require personal sacrifice for christians to support. They would require turning from selfishness (sin) towards sacrifice (righteousness).

I pray that the Church and individual christians open our eyes to the opportunity God has given us to live like Christians; like Christ.

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