This Sunday will be my second time preaching at Azle Christian Church, unless you count my sermonette which I do not. This Sunday will also kick off a capital campaign for the Church too. This put me in a precarious position. The theme for the capital campaign is “The Power of One.” We are wanting to stress that it is not the amount of money that is donated to the campaign, while we would like it to be a relatively large amount, is not the main issue. We want one hundred percent participation. What is more important is that you contribute, not how much you contribute.
I understand that while no one really ever wants to do a capital campaign, at least I didn’t hear any cat calls and cheers when we announced at the Cabinet and Board meetings that we will be doing one, most people understand that it is a necessity from time to time when running a church that has it’s own property. So for me, it’s just one of those things where you don’t want to do it, but you know you have to.
I will say there is need to tread lightly with our selected theme, “The Power of One” could easily be transformed into the idea that the individual is the one that matters more than the community. Don’t get me wrong I do believe that every person is important. Indeed every single person was created in the image of God. We all have inherent value that no one can take away. But what happens when the focus turns on the person instead of the community is individualism, and I believe that individualism is original sin.
I know, I know, I know. You’re thinking to yourself, “Will, talking about original sin? But he’s not conservative! Why would he bring up sex!?!” Well first off, the concept of original sin, or the first sin, is not about sex. Augustine thought that original sin was biologically transmitted during the act of sexual intercourse, but I don’t think that many of us truly believe that argument anymore. I know I don’t. So original, the first, sin for me is what all sins expound from. Original sin is the heart of all other sins. I argue that this first sin is actually individualism.
Whether you want to believe the Adam and Eve story is literally how human life came onto this planet or not (I don’t), the story shows how individualism was the first sin. Sure Eve was tricked to believe that, even though God told Eve and Adam not too eat from the “tree in the middle of the Garden” (Gen. 2:3), the tree would not kill her, she still made the decision that it is good for me to eat the fruit from this tree. She made the decision that would most benefit herself. Regardless of whether it was Eve who ate the fruit first or Adam (I think the story was in part told as a way to say why women have to experience the pain of childbirth more than death) makes no difference. In this story, there was no sinning before someone made the decision that the “self” is more important that the “us.” So original sin is focusing on the needs of me, my small community, or my nation while trampling on the needs of others.
While I do my best not to fall into the trap of individualism, I know that I do. I can do my best to put myself out of the power of sin, but the sin is passed down from generation to generation, maybe not through sex like Augustine thought, but in the culture we are raised in. We are literally reared in a culture that values the self more than anything else. We can’t escape it. But like any problem, the first step is to name it. I have a problem and that problem is individualism. The next step is to deal with it. The good news (now there’s a loaded term if I’ve ever said one) is that we have a way to deal with it, we were taught to it by the Son of Man, Son of God, and the Word but that’s a subject for another time.