Previous generations of Christians had a more lively sense of sin than we have today. Perhaps it was due to the vigorous style of preaching that reminded people of their lowliness and the propensity for doing wrong. In Catholic circles this showed itself in long queues each week outside the confessional; on the Protestant and Free Church circuits sin was the stuff of many a mission or revival meeting.

John the Baptist proclaims that Jesus is sent from God to take away the sin of the world. What exactly is this sin? It is clearly more that the pettiness of being nasty to your brother of sister, shoplifting from the supermarket, telling lies to your teacher or selling black market goods at knock-down prices.

The sin of the world is a disease that has infected all of us. We live with it, often without realising it. It is endemic; it affects the very structures of our society and our world. It is often more about what we don’t do than what we do. We find it in institutions just as much as in individual people.

When a public body is accused of being institutionally racist we are beginning to scratch the surface of what the sin of the world is. It is an atmosphere that we breathe and take for granted but do nothing about, sometimes claiming that the problem is too big for us to make any impression on alone.

 Hence, we become reconciled to the fact that farmers or workers in poor countries receive low payments for their products so that we can buy them cheaply here. We know that there are those around us embroiled in a life of drug dependency but claim that we are powerless to tackle the pushers. We see international pharmaceutical companies charge prices for medicines that prevent missions in Africa from getting relief. We continue to trade with repressive regimes, to stand by while countries commit genocide, to presume that all immigrants are scroungers, to ignore the polluting of the environment, to take as our standard whatever false gods our government or the media decide to put before us……

 Of course, we reply by saying that it is not us who do these things; it’s just ‘how the world is these days.’

 This is the sin of the world that Jesus came totake away. Do we have a role to play in this?


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