I’ve started a lectio divina study of 1 John. Here’s what caught my eye (and pierced my heart) in Chapter 1.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
It’s easy to deceive ourselves when it comes to sin. We like to think that we’re basically “good” people. Maybe we don’t lie, steal, murder, or commit adultery, and so we feel pretty complacent. Other people are sinful — not us!
Lately I’ve been thinking about something that’s contained in the Via de Cristo examination of conscience that I use sometimes. Here’s what it says about how we might sin against God:
“Not made an effort to bear with Him the sins of the world, especially those of my own social group.”
Recently my husband and I watched a documentary called Final Account, in which Germans who had grown up in Nazi Germany were interviewed. Most of them felt guilty about what had been done to the Jews and others. They admitted that most people knew or had suspicions about what was going on, yet they didn’t try to intervene. Why? They were afraid. They felt powerless. They believed their own lives and the lives of family members were at stake. Would I have behaved differently? I’m not sure.
Here’s a closer example. When I was a child, growing up in the 50’s, segregation was still the rule in school and other public places. Interracial marriage was considered wrong. This was not fair, or just, but it was accepted. It was the way things were. My family and most others, went along with the status quo. We were busy with our own lives and problems, so it didn’t seem like something to worry about. Of course, I was quite young, but if I had been older, would I have acted? Probably not.
Today we like to believe that we have progressed and would no longer treat those of another race so callously, but think again. Many of the consumer good that we enjoy quite cheaply (some prime examples are coffee and clothing) are produced by people in other countries who are being used as slave labor, or something close to that. Yet, as a nation, we trade with these countries. Why? It’s in our own self interest. We don’t see people being used this way, and so it’s easy to deny.– but it is happening.
So friends, you can see how easy it is to deceive ourselves, to believe that we are not responsible. We do it because we’re young or fearful; we do it because it’s easier to go along with the crowd, or because it’s beneficial to us.
There’s just no getting around this fact– we’re all sinners.
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