The First Step in Problem Solving

Presidents give speeches; it’s what they do. In the speeches they give something of a vision of what might make life better for the nation; and the opposition party gives a response because that’s what they do. Between an inauguration and a State of the Union Address in a span of less than one month, we’ve had opportunity to hear big speeches and much commentary. There’s much to say about what was said, and much to say about what was said in response. There’s something more important that wasn’t said, either by the president or by the respondents.

John 1:29-34
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

One thing missing in all of the speeches was reference to sin. It’s not that I expected to hear it or was surprised by its absence. It’s just that it should be increasingly obvious that many of the proposed legislative solutions to our most troubling and fear-inducing issues will not in themselves accomplish what needs to be done if we are to be more secure, have greater opportunities, and live more acceptingly of our neighbors near and far.

Everyone but the most uninformed and willfully ignorant person acknowledges that a man named Jesus lived in first century Palestine. What people make of him and what they will do with what they hear is another matter. The New Testament, particularly in John’s gospel, is very clear regarding why Jesus came to our world: he takes away sin.

As we read through the entirety of John’s first chapter, it stand out even more clearly. The eternal, divine Logos, through whom all things were made and all things beautiful, graceful, and truthful are revealed is then first introduced to humankind as the one who takes away the sin of the world. Not as a dictator or legislator, not as judge or as prosecutor, but as the lamb of God did he come to change our world. This, of course, means sacrifice. Of all the things we could imagine God able to do, of all the solutions He could possibly offer to the things that limit, defeat, destroy, bind, and confuse us, the first thing he announces about his personal presence in the world is that he takes away sin.

It’s too serious a matter for us to take Jesus as primarily anything before we see him as the one who removes sin. And if this is the paramount purpose of his coming, we have no choice but to see sin in all of its manifold expressions as our primary problem—in its grip upon persons young and old, wealthy and poor, as persons and as the nations formed of person, as those with every form of lifestyle. And if sin is the problem, we can attempt to limit its impact, but we cannot remove it.

Today’s thought is to look at the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; and to repent of both thinking we can use him while by-passing sin and of thinking that our real problem is anything else than sin—and anywhere else without being in ourselves.

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