our focus on nastier sins and "worse" sinners
Enjoyed a meditation from Simone Weil in Bread and Wine this morning...
She opens by reflecting on the profound evil represented by the cross, especially because of Jesus' association with it. But then she moves to the prominent people behind the cross-- not "monsters", but "ordinary" men.
Pilate was "a coward" who "cared more about his comfortable position than he did about justice". Caiaphas was "the admired and revered religious leader of the most religious people in that ancient world...a devout and sincerely religious man". But he was "too rigid...thought he had the whole truth" and would promote the damage (and even death) of people who disagreed. Judas disagreed with Jesus' approach and "couldn't wait" for God's timing. Even the carpenter was willing to participate in an unjust system-- at the least, "playing with victims" who merely deserve death-- for a job and a buck.
As Weil concludes: "These were the things that crucified Jesus...not wild viciousness or sadistic brutality or naked hate, but the civilized vices of cowardice, bigotry, impatience, timidity, falsehood, and indifference-- vices all of us share, the very vices which crucify human beings today."
Similarly, we like to focus on "nastier" sins and "worse" sinners. It helps keep the heat off of us-- or so it seems. In Amos' day, it was easier to pound the sins of the pagans. (Don't you love the masterful way in which God leads him to convict the sinners in his home country?!) For Paul, the famous passage in Romans 1 on homosexual conduct serves, at least in part, as a useful way to convince us that we're all sinners-- on his way to Romans 6:23-- that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. (Accept the gift, please!!)
And today, it's still the same. In politics, it's usually the sins of the other party, while we ignore or downplay our own party's sins. (Don't you love seeing that on FB!) In everyday life, since Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, we want to avoid blame and point to the (supposedly greater) sins of others. In terms of theodicy and eschatology, we want God to come to earth to intervene to deal with the sinners. But many of us don't want to stop our own sin-- or want God to intervene so forcefully on account of our own sins.
In each case, it's the same. Don't fool yourself into thinking you don't sin-- or that your sins are "mild". Every day, we do serious damage and injustice to those around us. Accept the grace of God as payment for those sins-- and then let that grace live within you in your daily life.