"We need to hear more about sin and the cross." Interesting claims iterated during Holy Week. When a person wants to hear more about sin just what does that mean? Lexically we often race to define sin. "Missing the mark," serves us until we define "mark." Contextually in our circles we define sin as "falling short." Then again we face a contextual matter addressing, "short of what." God sets the mark and it is His glory we fall short of. How is this lexically an issue?
I suspect what is being said is something like, "We would like to hear more pronouncements and condemnations of the sins of the world." Here is where we may need a new lexicon. Since we are nearing Good Friday we will certainly here much about sin and atonement. It is in this context that the matter must find its footing. When the assertion comes from those in the Church it sounds a bit like a call for haranguing those for doing what they do. Yet, the cross is about showing the world there is no need to continue doing what you do. "There is a way that seems right to a person but the end is death." When a person does what he or she does thinking it is the right way they are in need of seeing a different way. Condemnation does not draw it tends to repel. Jesus’ own words indicate He came not to condemn the world but that the world would be saved through Him. How is it we long for rants of condemnation?
Could we uncover words that would allow us to talk about sin without and sin within? What those in the Church are not so quick to want to hear concerns sins within – that is, sin within/among the people considered "in." We prefer to hear what will happen to whoremongers and terrorists – sin without. How could this point to what is "good" about Good Friday? When we fail to live "Good Friday" kinds of lives we take the "good" out of the day. We will only live "Good Friday" lives when we more willingly tend to the sins within/among the Church. It is these matters that create the discomfort. Leave us to our racism. Leave us to our arrogance. Leave us to our creating our own "classes" among Christians. Leave us to our unfaithfulness. Leave us to our selfishness. Leave us to our lack of compassion and empathy. Leave us to the advancement of our own kingdoms.
This leads me to what originally stirred this post. Lexically we need a way forward to distinguish between Church as "Institution" rather than church as "community of Jesus followers." We would prefer there were not distinction. However, only the unwilling to be critical could possibly suggest nothing is wrong with Church as "Institution." Too often we depend on capitals to draw down distinctions. Church=Institution. church=community of Jesus followers. Were we to agree on the use of capitalization then maybe we could get there. This distinction is easily nuanced when one is pressed to be more specific about the critique. May animated conversations take place where the "Church" is dismissed. At the same time the "church" is affirmed as a place where Jesus is embodied in the shared lives of people – at least in its attempts.
When we in the "Church" cannot come to our own terms, how is it we can expect anyone to understand other terms we use like grace and mercy, repentance and forgiveness, love and care, hope and peace? Friday will be "good" for the world when the world sees how "good" Friday is in the lived lives of those claiming to follow Jesus participating in communities called "churches."