Sometimes, I have these realizations that are like strings of lined up dominoes. You know the deal: one knocks down the next which knocks down the next which knocks down the next.
Sometimes, these trains of thought take me to interesting places. Other times, one little link in the chain, one little domino in the trail, one little diversion in the track is wrong. Sometimes it’s wrong in an obvious and glaring way. Other times it’s wrong in some subtle way. Which ever is the case, I get it wrong, and I’m too fascinated by my own little thoughts to even notice.
If you’re still with this post after two paragraphs of mostly nothing, I’d like to submit this morning’s train of thought. If you’re interested in commenting, I’d love to hear what you have to say. Perhaps you can help me see if I’ve gone wrong somewhere along the way.
It all started with a post about cursing. A rather intruiging comment to this post suggested that the obscene language adopted in the 60’s was a reaction to the idolatry of the previous generation. I think the idea was that the 50’s were a time of rigidity and conformity and that these things took the place that God deserves in the center of our lives. (If I’ve misunderstood the comments I hope that I’ll be corrected.)
My first thought upon reading this was that we’re all sinners responding to our historical circumstances. It was clearly true in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s clearly true today. It’s clearly true in the bible. The nation of Israel is the most prime example.
My second thought is that this makes the most sense if we consider both sense of the word “history”. There is the obvious sense in which we mean “history” the sense in which we talk about our collective past. History text books refer to this sense of the word.
But we can also talk about our personal histories. Things that happened only to us. Things that maybe nobody else knows about.
And so I came to this realization: We’re all sinners responding to our historical circumstances… but we have collective histories and we have personal histories, and all of us are just sinners responding to both of these.
And because we are sinners, our responses will be sinful. Sometimes our responses will be sinful because we will swing to far in the opposite direction of what happened before… in other words, some times we will have over-reactions to what happened to us or before us; we will sometimes throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Other times the wrongness of our reaction won’t be an over-reaction. It’ll be a result of what happens to us. We’re damaged, broken, neglected, wounded, deprived through our historical circumstances.
There is this tremendous debate about how much we ought to own. How responsible can we be held for what we do? I don’t think it matters, at least in terms of what I’m thinking about here.
Sin originally meant “missing the target” or “missing the mark.” God has set a target for us. We don’t hit it very often. There are all kinds of reasons we miss a target. Some of them are our fault. Some of them are not. But when we’re scoring an archery contest, we don’t really care about that. What we care about is whether or not we missed.
I guess my whole point is that left to our own devices, we will always miss. Human societies plod along, responding to their collective histories. Individuals within these societies plod along, too, responding to their individual histories. It doesn’t seem that either are very self-correcting.
In some ways, I guess the implication truly is that Jesus is our only hope. He literally rescues us from our collective and our individual histories.