We live in a very individualistic culture. A culture that stresses what is best for the individual above most other things. We live in a culture that at times stresses acceptance of others as a greater ideal than defending ultimate decisions on right and wrong. Socially it is not acceptable to declare certain activities wrong, instead everyone must choose for themselves. Somewhere along the way a crazy idea has been proposed and peddled as truth that as long as what you are doing doesn’t directly affect anyone else you are free to do it. Even if what you are doing is destructive, as long as you are only destroying yourself then you can do it. It is almost as if we all live on boats in the middle of an enormous ocean, we pass each other in the night and we can talk and have relationship, but we don’t affect each other. As long as our boats don’t bump together you are welcome to do whatever you want to on your boat and it doesn’t affect me.
There is a problem with this mentality though, it doesn’t work. While we may not be so interconnected that every little thing that one person in a community does directly affects everyone else, we are affected by what is going on around us. Sin in the camp, even if it is not my sin, affects me. That is one reason that God was so adamant about eradicating sin from the community of Israel. In more than one place in the Old Testament God speaks about keeping the camp pure because he knows that even one sin can creep in and begin destroying everything else around it. A perfect example of this is Achan. When the people of Israel attack Jericho the whole city was to be dedicated to God. All the people were to be killed and anything of value was to be placed in the treasury of the LORD. Other battles would provide spoil for the soldiers, but not this one. However, Achan sinned and took some of the devoted things for himself and hid them in his tent. Although no one else knew about it, the Lord’s anger burned against Achan and there would be consequences from it.
The people of Israel next go to attack Ai, and even though Ai is smaller and weaker than Jericho, the people of Ai rout the Israelite army, sending them into retreat and killing 36 men. When Joshua cries out to God wanting answers as to why God has abandoned them, God shows no pity and tells Joshua to quit complaining and instead eradicate sin from the camp. Israel failed and 36 people died because Achan sinned. Israel would not win another battle until the sin problem was dealt with. Achan and all of his family were stoned to death for his sin in order to turn God’s anger away from Israel, but even then Israel still suffered. Sin had left a stain on the camp and innocent people had died because of it.
What does all this mean? We are not as separate from others as we think we are. Sin, anywhere in the community, whether my personal sin or the sin of another, has consequences for everyone. And we, as the people of God must gain the courage to stand up and declare sin as wrong. We must be adamant to not only eradicate our own sin and the sins of others in our church community but the sins of the world around us. All sin, whether committed by Christians or non-Christians, is against the will of God. And if we are to truly pray and desire for God’s Kingdom to come and his will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven we as Christians must gain the courage to speak out about the evils in our world that are against the will of God, whether that means calling for honesty in government and business dealings, speaking out about the evil of sex trafficking, or finding a way to stop innocent children in Africa from dying of preventable diseases everyday. If we don’t speak out we are in some sense responsible for the sins around us because we did nothing to stop them. The Church is called to be a Kingdom of Priests, sent out into the world to show the world the right way to live, the God honoring way to live. It is time for the church to stand up for what is right and strive to influence the world instead of retreating from the world. Sin is wrong, and it affects us all. Instead of ignoring the sin around us, may we, in a God honoring and humble way, confront it and show the world a more appropriate way to live, in order that God’s name can be praised among the nations.