The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” —John 1:29
Father Richard Rohr preaches a homily on the collective nature of salvation and sin:
I’m convinced God is saving history. God is saving humanity. God saves the whole, not merely parts. One great misinterpretation of the Bible is thinking that God saves individuals apart from one another. That can’t be the full meaning of salvation. The real collective message is hidden in plain sight throughout the Bible.
Every proclamation of salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures is collective. In the book of Isaiah, God promises to raise up all the tribes of Jacob, and restore all the survivors of Israel, that “my salvation may reach to the very ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). This is the first outpouring of the notion that God’s message was for the whole—history, society, humanity. All are saved. This usage is so constant throughout the Bible that we stopped noticing it. All came forth from God. Everything then exemplifies the mystery of God, and then everything (despite its worthiness or unworthiness) is taken back into God! We’re saved because we’re connected—not because we’re worthy.
As Jesus’ ministry begins, John calls him the “Lamb of God.” That’s not what history expected. We expected a Lion of God—an almighty, omnipotent God who solved all problems. Instead, the Lamb of God is the one who is vulnerable and powerless, who is taken and absorbed into whatever history unfolds. That’s what is meant by the Lamb of God who forgives the “sin” of the world. Notice, it isn’t “sins,” as in many. It’s singular, “sin.” Just as salvation is one collective reality, so too is evil. It’s always collective. God forgives it by becoming incarnate. If God becomes a human being, then it’s good to be human! Incarnation is already redemption.
Similarly, we are all complicit. We’re all cooperative in the stupidity and evil of human history. No one can stand up and say, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” As Paul says so clearly: “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), so we all bear the burden of sin. It’s a waste of God’s time—and our own—to try to prove who is more worthy, more holy, more blameless. Stop trying to be better than someone else! Just forget it! All that does is make us egocentric.
I truly think Christianity itself will not be reformed until its basic proclamation to the world is that we bear the “weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17) as a collective. Paul called this collective mystery “the Body of Christ.” We’ve got to carry the whole. That’s why our central sacrament is Communion, a shared meal and a shared table. More important than being correct is being in communion, collected into one. If we don’t feel weight taken off our backs by that message, we’re not really listening.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Sin Is Collective and Salvation Is Collective,” homily, January 19, 2020.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on a holistic understanding of salvation.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Wire (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Paul Thompson, Untitled Icons (detail), 2021,video still, New Mexico. Jenna Keiper, Wire II (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: When the weight of the suffering of the world closes around us, we can easily feel suffocated from the grief and pain. What would happen if in these moments we reached out to connect with others? In grief and pain, together. Not alone. Together.
Story from Our Community:
I’ve been reading these scripture insights for over a decade. Though I surge and wane, I realize that the connection has kept me sane through the loss of my husband & two daughters. These daily readings have kept me hopeful and striving to reach that spiritual comfort spot. Thank you for sustaining me on the journey.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.