Moral Humility: Thinking About Sin

Moral Humility: Thinking about sin

Opposite of moral superiority.

  • Black-and-white/grey/light

Bribery: My journey

  • Bribery is always wrong (black and white)
  • Bribery is morally complex and culturally embedded (grey)

While the extortion of bribes is roundly condemned, the giving of bribes (or gifts to officials) is not condemned… Such equivocation in the Old Testament seems to reflect a recognition of the power differential between a poor person who gives a gift in order to stage off injustice and the rich who uses his power to exploit the poor. The powerful and the powerless are not judged by the same abstract absolute.

  • Gift-giving and reciprocity is a positive (even beautiful) cultural value and shows us something of the gospel! (light).

In Serbian Pastor Vlada Stojanovic’s observation, “such reciprocal relationships are beautiful. The wisdom required to dance this dance in my culture is enriching. I do want to see hearts redeemed. I don’t want to see my culture flattened.”

Christian witnesses to Polygamous cultures:

  • Polygamy is always wrong (black and white) – David Livingstone
  • Polygamy is socially complex (grey) – God hates divorce, who cares for the estranged wives etc.
  • Polygamy is an expression of care for relatives which is a positive social value and can show us something of the gospel! (Levirate system, Boaz & Ruth, perhaps the reason that cultural Islam allows a man four wives is not about sexual appetite but about giving the flexibility to take responsibility for extended family in this way.)

Proximity helps us to appreciate complexity. It begets empathy. It compels us to take responsibility. Tearing down is easy, but proximity means we have to help rebuild. Proximity prohibits simplistic solutions. It causes us to be invested emotionally in the issues. Proximity, then, should be a priority. Mission that is not up-close-and-personal is inadequate.

Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, in “Three Mile an Hour God” wrote;

While Jesus Christ, the head of the church, has an appreciative mind, often his historical churches have displayed a non-appreciative or even anti-appreciative mind. Only rarely is the church moved. Often it has rejected, “thrown cold water upon” the one who said, “all these I have observed from my youth.” The cultural values of Asia and the Pacific have not been appreciated. They were, in a package, decided to be against the values for which Jesus Christ stood, though in most cases such judgement has been given in terms of the values found in the Western life-style for which Jesus Christ does not necessarily stand. That which was unfamiliar to the church was condemned as anti-Christian. One of the few most critical problems posed to the life in the Christian faith is this lack of appreciation-perspective.

Koyama’s reference to Mark 10.20-21 is stinging! Jesus looked at the young man and loved him. He didn’t rubbish or discount his former experiences. They weren’t enough to save him, but they weren’t nothing.

How does this play out in mission?

  • Evaluate discipleship by trajectory not by snapshot (me and the gym)…
  • Be slow to judge and quick to listen
  • Understand that some ethical issues are contextual
  • Defer to proximity
  • Plant the seed of the gospel and trust it to produce contextual gospel fruit from the inside (not the gospel plus something imposed from the outside)

What this exposes is the sin of ethnocentrism: (I am straight and you are skewed vs both of our cultures are skewed by sin).

 “A first step in overcoming ethnocentrism is the recognition that my own values are not necessarily the same as God’s”Adeney.

Racism is the refusal to love others in their difference, and that is not Christianity. Universal love must recognize, and reckon with, cultural differences. A lived faith demands inculturation and the acknowledgement of other people’s right to an inculturated faith. Aylward Shorter