Sin and Social Responsibility

In recovering a more holistic understanding of the good news it is imperative that we recover a more holistic understanding of sin. For my own understanding I am indebted to evangelical activist Ron Sider, who in his 1993 book “Evangelism and Social Action” had this to say:

If we understand and practice genuinely biblical repentance, then we establish an important, inseparable link between conversion and Christian social responsibility. Biblical repentance included turning from all sin including social sins. That means abandoning racist attitudes and neglect of the poor, indeed all that distorts human community. The tragedy of so much modern evangelism is that it has operated with a biblically inadequate view of sin seeing only the personal side. Consequently, it has operated with a biblically inadequate understanding of repentance and conversion focussed only on turning from personal sins and restoring the vertical relationship with God.

This one-sided, individualistic understanding of repentance contributed to an equally one-sided, individualistic understanding of discipleship that neglected the link between conversion and social justice.

Many people find it uncomfortable to view sin this broadly. However I thinks its essential we come to grips with it if we seek holiness in a holistic sense.

3 thoughts on “Sin and Social Responsibility

  1. For sure.
    But the question is: how exactly are we to reveal this as a sin?
    That’s probably the hardest question.
    I don’t know if it’s possible to go up, maybe on a sunday morning, and tell everybody their living in sin and better repent.
    What should we do?


  2. I agree completely Matt, and tend to think that an insistence on looking at sin as a personal rather than a corporate issue means that we tend to create a bunch of self righteous bigots who gaze past the planks in their own eyes in order to “help” others with their splinters.
    If we could see sin as a community issue we might take it more seriously.


  3. Matt,
    Well, you know that I believe sin needs to be very general — including personal and corporate behavior — and that the concept of hesed is central to it. If hesed is defined as basically “faithful covenant keeping”, and covenant keeping is defined as looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the terms and conditions of the covenant, than covenant breaking is sin — personally and corporately.
    I am weary of those who want to pick and choose between what is sin, when in fact, whenever an individual or group acts in such a way as the best interest of the other is not served, sin has occurred and is in need of repentance, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation.
    It is not a popular concept….


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