For a number of years, it has been very important for me to research and discuss the communal nature of sin and evil. Often, this is referred to as systemic evil. Under this category, we have mentioned things like the Doctrine of Discovery, racism and colonialism. It has been a great blessing to hear back from readers, both appreciative comments and critiques.
It must be said that this is an attempt to expand the categories of sin and evil, not to replace those that have been predominant over the past few centuries. Jesus was, thanks be to God, crucified and raised for my individual sins and invites me to find personal freedom from evil.
The Scripture teaches and the Christian elders have affirmed that Christ’s death and resurrection have also unveiled and initiated God’s plan to overcome the power of sin and death in its communal dimensions. The power and trajectory of God’s work in Jesus will lead me, I pray, to personal salvation and will also lead to a new heaven and earth.
We must examine our own individual conscience and deal with sin and evil in ourselves at a personal level. This is an indispensable component of our participation in God’s plan to overcome sin, evil and death, both corporate and individual. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and our individual sin both feeds and is fed by systemic evil. We cannot join the struggle against systemic evil without taking responsibility for our own entanglement in it. We are wounded by systemic evil and, at the same time, wound others and God’s creation.
Lent is a time for us to enter, afresh, the gift of repentance and walk the way of the cross towards new life—for ourselves, for humanity, and for creation. Let us be conscious of systemic evil and our participation in it. This consciousness, in order to be effective, must take to heart both individual and communal evil.