Continuing the discussion from Five Part Kierkegaard Devotional:
This is the final devotional segment of this series. Kierkegaard actually uses this collection as the opening chapter to his excellent book, Practice in Christianity. In the very next chapter, Kierkegaard spends considerable time developing the idea that the sickness which the physician is able to heal us from is the sickness of sin. He further develops that the only way into Christianity is to first become aware of sin, and that you are a sinner.
This has become trite in our time within the Christian community. In Kierkegaard’s day, everyone was born a Christian within Christendom. They were baptized into the church and thus became Christian. Modern philosophy, political and social theory was convinced that the 1000 year millennium was already being experienced as God’s kingdom had come to earth… in Christendom.
Kierkegaard fiercely opposed this, and he recognized that the concept that was desperately missing in the hearts and minds of these ‘Christians’ was that they were sinners.
I was reminded by this emphasis that our evangel, our gospel message, is impotent if we have not yet first established with someone that we/they are a sinner and are sick… unto death… because of it.
I was sitting beside a woman during a flight home from a business trip. She was in her 70’s. She shared with me that she was coming home, for the first time, since she was 19. She had left Canada and gone to Japan and gave her life to the Japanese in mission for the glory of Christ. I learned from her that the Japanese had a particular problem with the concept of sin. For them, it was doubly offensive to what it is for us. Their language had no way to differentiate a sinner from a criminal. They have no concept of a fallen nature, and they live with the basic assumption that all of humankind was good, until they become bad (as a criminal). Add in the fact that their honour/shame culture cannot accommodate for individual sin (there is no such thing… a criminal brings shame upon the entire family), the doctrine of sin could not penetrate the minds of the Japanese… not easily anyways… This is extremely fascinating when I consider that only 1% of Japan identify as Christian, and they are seen as the largest unreached people group in the world by many mission organizations. This was such a severe ‘non-starter’ for Christian missionaries that one of the two dominant Japanese translations of the Bible has eliminated the word for sin all together in hopes of better penetration (a highly controversial translation practice to be sure!)
Has the day and age that we live in today done away with the concept of sin? Is this a primary concept that we need to succeed in re-discovering before our message of grace and salvation can be accepted? Ought we to take a similar approach to Kierkegaard?