Editor’s note: One Saturday morning, I read through a few interesting articles, describing some of today’s cultural beliefs on how to fix things, and how the authors described their shortcomings.
To be clear, I have worked diligently to minimize the amount of politics and dissension covered on this site, so I share these links for readers’ thoughtful review, and not as unfiltered endorsement or as a soapbox to create even more division in our world. If you have thoughts about these authors’ statements, please share them with the authors directly. In return, I’ll provide you with plenty of my own thoughts for you to comment on, below.
It occurred to me that, while misperceptions in society (as well as government and popular movements) may be necessarily incomplete or short-sighted (being the product of finite human minds), they – like the Athenians and their “altar to an unknown god” – have provided a framework in which to explain the superior solution that Jesus Christ offers. If I were asked what I thought about some of the current movements that claim to resolve society’s ills through human effort, below is what I might respond with. I also challenge readers (as I must challenge myself) to evaluate our own viewpoints against those of Jesus Christ, rather than only thinking that these principles only apply to “other people”.
We are all oppressed by sin. There is indeed great evil in this world, at scales that range from institutional to individual, and there are many who need to be helped. However, while many people are harmed through no fault of their own, none of us are free from contributing to the overall problem of sin. Even as others sin against us (even when we haven’t done anything to them), our own sin hurts others…and usually ourselves.
Once we get down to the essence of bad things that happen in the world (i.e., when we understand that they all boil down to the collective sin of human beings), we find that no human solution can fix all of them. There are two fundamental problems with the idea that any of us – whether individually or as a group – can overcome the true oppression in our lives by overthrowing, destroying, or replacing what oppresses us (that oppression being sin: both our own sin, and the sins of others).
First, if we were to somehow topple certain forces of evil, and take charge ourselves, our lives prove (to ourselves and to others) that we are sinful ourselves, stained with different variations of the sin we detest in others. When it comes to sin, we are no more qualified to rule over others (or ourselves) than any of the imperfect people who currently have authority over us. If we were suddenly put in charge, our own sinful natures would immediately make us “oppressors” in the sense that our sin would continue to cause harm to ourselves and to others.
To be sure, many of us think that we are “better” than other people, when it comes to sin. Their sins are somehow bigger, badder, or bolder than our own. The truth is, though, that while the effects of sin may vary, every sin is an affront to God, and causes us to fall short of the ideal for which He created us.
Secondly, we are simply too weak and fallen to overcome sin in our own lives, much less in anyone else’s. (See Romans 7:14-25.) If we were suddenly put in charge, we might think that the amount of sin in the world would decrease, but sin is not a matter of degrees: We would continue to rule (or govern) with a sinful nature, just as those who came before us.
So, overthrowing those that we consider to be worse than us isn’t a solution unto itself. Realizing that my own country (like many others) was formed through revolution, I’m not suggesting that we must always avoid change. Instead, I am only pointing out that change in itself – change for the sake of change – is insufficient.
The good news is that there is a better way, found only in Jesus Christ.
The beauty of Jesus Christ is that He acknowledges the power and oppression of sin (rather than hiding it with our modern platitudes and diversions), and – at the same time – He also offers us solutions to both of the problems listed above.
First, Jesus gives us the only true solution to overcome the oppression of sin. Through His voluntary payment for our sins (when He exchanged His perfect life and His right to Heaven for the death that our sins have earned), He sets us free from the burden and otherwise-inevitable consequences of our sinful choices. In fact, He offers this to every person, even those whose sins personally harm us. Then, He asks us to love even our enemies like He loved us when we were His enemies, sinning and rejecting Him (see Romans 5:6-11). You can never overcome all the negative effects of sin in your own life – much less the rest of the world – without His help.
Secondly, Jesus provides the only leadership that is not inherently oppressive. His perfect love for us, as well as His omniscient wisdom, mean that the pattern of life that He instructs us to follow is fundamentally better: for us and for others, including society as a whole (see 1 John 5:1-5). Despite what it may look like through a filter of sin, selfishness, and pride, the path that Jesus sets out for His followers is more rewarding, more freeing, and more fulfilling than any alternative (see Matthew 11:28-30). Any merely-human leader that we may follow will still be imperfect, and their sinful nature will always lead to oppression of some kind, even with the best of intentions. We may throw out one ruling party after another, but we will never find true freedom until we choose to follow Jesus.
FYI, people who follow Jesus still do wrong things, so we must not be skewed in our perception of His example and His instructions by those imperfect illustrations. The message of Jesus is that our sins are paid for (past, present, and future), not that we earn or retain our salvation by becoming sin-free. If you want to see what our world needs – every culture, every society, every group – look directly at the life of perfect love and humble service that Jesus demonstrated.
This is why I believe it is so important for all people everywhere to accept Jesus as both their Savior and their Lord. There is no other way to overcome the true oppression of sin, to which we have each chosen to become servants. If anyone wishes to offer me a solution that does not involve Him, they should know that He is the benchmark against which I must measure all alternatives.
Of course, followers of Jesus should look out for those who are downtrodden, hurting, marginalized, and persecuted. This life of humble service to others cannot be discarded along with social ideas that try to solve these problems without Him. The differences are in the One who we put in charge of addressing these problems, and our chances of success when we follow Him (versus anyone or anything else).