Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Cross & Culpability

I've been led to think about culpability, theologically-speaking, quite a bit in the past several months. As a participant in the Social Action committee at the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene, it was frustrating to me how many times people stood to speak against the idea of us making a corporate statement as a denomination about a given issue in case it looked like we were then accepting culpability for something we didn't do.

At first, as a human, I understand this tendency to safe-guard reputation. As a parent, I want to warn my kids where and with whom they are seen. While I can state that physical safety is the main goal, if I'm honest, it's also because I care about their reputation. Reputation matters in this world. A good one will make things a lot easier in the long run.

But when I think theologically, and more specifically, christologically, and even more specifically, soteriologically, I am caused to remember that I have chosen to let Christ and the cross serve as the primary determinative for my perspective and action. The cross isn't simply personally salvific; it is corporately prescriptive. What the community of Christ says and does together will be shaped by the cross of Christ.

So if Christ were to have said, "I didn't do it, so I will not participate in its redemption," then damn us all.

But he didn't. Culpability is exactly what Christ took upon himself on the cross, and in doing so, he accepted it and then made way for it to be dealt with in grace and love. It wasn't the safest thing to do. And it wasn't the easiest thing to do. But it was the divine thing to do, which means it's the Christlike thing to do. Thus, it is our call.

I truly believe that in following Christ, part of our call to evangelism is to take upon ourselves the suffering of others, even if it is the result of sin for which we are not culpable, and even if it is the result of sin that those others themselves are culpable for. That is good news indeed, and not news today's society really knows much about. Everyone else is to blame and so no one is to blame.

So let's be clear: Christ's cross was never meant to save face. It was meant to save lives. Passing on the culpability of others will save face. But that wasn't Christ's game. He came to save life. And the things of violence and fear and racism are deeply embedded life problems. Let the Church be at the forefront of absorbing this pain so that it can be dealt with in grace and love.


  1. wow, great news to listen about the happening in the social committee, and I am very well aware of this kind of act that many people have to face while saving someone's life

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