Fathers must not be put to death for what their children do, nor children for what their fathers do; each must be put to death for his own sin. Deuteronomy 24.16.
Moses said it by inspiration to the people of Israel, before they entered the land of Canaan. Centuries later, the prophet Ezekiel developed it further, speaking again to the Israelites. (See chapters 18 and 33.) Go to the New Testament and see that condemnation and salvation are determined on an individual basis.
The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16.16.
Some Bible versions published in recent years throw statements into the plural in order to avoid the singular masculine pronoun. All fine and good, but it sometimes misses a point, like individual responsibility.
Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load. Galatians 6.4-5.
Am I to blame for what happened a hundred years ago or more? God is more interested in what I am doing right now.
People today talk about social justice and systemic inequalities, injustice, and racism. Such terms have become emotional triggers. It’s a political game. But is the system rigged? Possibly. In a world of fallen humanity, that’s about what we would expect. At the same time, some societies are less unjust than others. On earth, none is perfect, none is utopia, and none ever will be.
That is why Christ established the church, which is the newest and last manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth. Here all are equal in status. Each person has a role and function in the body, there are differing gifts and services, but every single saint has equal access to the Father through Christ.
Note the emphasis in the following text on “all.”
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3.26-29.
At issue here is salvation by grace through obedient faith. There is no interest in the New Testament in changing society as a whole. The focus is on what we experience within the body of Christ. And there is another focus that is lost in the political noise today: responsibility.
Talk of rights has replaced emphasis on responsibility. Demand for rights is expanding, while awareness of responsibility has diminished. Like Adam and Eve and many humans since, the blame game is in full swing.
What does all this mean? How should the saints of God act in this moment? They should carry on as usual, but the following points may be helpful.
First, purge self of attitudes unworthy of Christ. He took the gospel to every person: Samaritan women, self-righteous religious figures, pagan military officials. Look down upon no one. “Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart” Romans 12.16 CEB.
Second, see every person as a creature made by God and as a potential child of God through Christ. No matter how unrighteous or unjust a person may be, they carry within them the dignity of being human and of being given the opportunity to be forgiven of sins by Christ’s death upon the cross.
Third, act justly. Do not expect justice from the world, but respond always with righteous words and actions. God’s grace teaches us “that, having denied the ungodliness and the worldly passions, we should live in a self-controlled manner and justly and reverently in the present age” Titus 2.12 Mounce.
Fourth, show respect to all. Our life and teaching must be “with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience” 1 Peter 3.16. This, after he wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” 1 Peter 2.17 ESV. (See also 1 Timothy 6.2.) Jesus taught us to have an inclusive love, even for our enemies: “There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds” Matthew 5.48 REB.
Fifth, assume responsibility for yourself, but do not live under someone else’s attempts to dump upon you guilt that doesn’t belong to you. Know what God expects of you and fulfill his will. “For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is” Ephesians 5.17.
Sixth, speak the Good News. It is always good and proper to tell the story of Christ. The worse the world gets, the more it needs the Lord. It will know the Lord and his salvation only insofar as Christians teach about him.
Seventh, avoid political discourse. Do not mix politics with the hope we cherish of transitioning from the Kingdom of God in the church to the eternal Kingdom, 2 Peter 1.11. Jesus established the church, not a political philosophy or party. Our work is to build up his church and bring people into it, where righteousness is the norm, Matthew 6.33.
Finally: Some will speak ill of our faith. They may confuse us with the denominations which are nothing more than religious divisions. By our lives, actions, and words, we must show that what they are seeking (if they are seeking true justice and peace) is available to all in the Kingdom of God. For this we pray and work.
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