‘Sin’ has become a switch-off word. Over the centuries, judgmental preaching in parts of the church has sometimes implied that even pleasure itself was sinful. Perhaps we need a new word. Meanwhile we shall have to re-interpret the concept of sin altogether. 

The instinct for survival which humanity shares with all life is essentially self-centred. It takes on a new dimension with the dawn of human consciousness. This gives us the ability to greatly expand our self-centred behaviour, but it also brings us responsibility for the consequences to others. 

It seems sin arises from self-centred living and thinking. ‘Original sin’ could be understood as ‘ignoring the responsibility that goes with knowledge and consciousness’. 

Our current, western-dominated global culture emphasises individual freedom and at the moment it seems to confuse populism with leadership. So self-centredness is not merely an aspect of individual behaviour but it can also become a dominant characteristic of commercial behaviour and national politics. 

We see the effects of this in the news: the persistent contrast of rich and poor between and within nations and the widespread, short-sighted destruction of global resources for individual, corporate or national benefit. These circumstances impact hardest on those already vulnerable, both in human societies and in the natural world. 

At this time of year, we have just finished celebrating the bounty of God’s harvest. Perhaps it’s a time to reflect that his harvest is intended for the whole of creation, not particularly for humankind, and certainly not mainly for those human societies which have the most economic clout.  

Lord, help us to pray, think, speak and act accordingly.

Written by Martin Dodds, of Western Dales Mission Community.

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