Friday, May 13, 2011

Joshua 7: Achan

I'm reading Joshua 7 today.  Here's how The Message translation opens:

"Then the People of Israel violated the holy curse. Achan son of Carmi...took some of the cursed things. GOD became angry with the People of Israel."

When the Jews stormed over the fallen walls of Jericho, God had told them everything in Jericho was set aside for destruction.  All people, animals, and property were to be destroyed. Undestroyable items like gold and silver were to be given to God.  It seems inevitable to us that one of the 40,000 soldiers wouldn't be able to resist. And so it happened that Achan took a beautiful robe, and some silver and gold and hid them under his tent.

As a result, God was angry with all of Israel, and He allowed their enemies to defeat them and kill 36 Jewish soldiers.  Whoa there!  Why was God angry at all of Israel?  Today in North America, being the most highly individualized culture in the history of the world, it's really tough for us to see how that's fair.  Achan should be punished for his own sins!  And I think God agrees with that principle (that's what Ezekiel 18 is all about). 

But living in China, which is a fairly collectivist culture (seeing things in terms of the group you belong to instead of the individual you are), I can begin to understand why it may have been necessary to deal with early Israel in this way.  "A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough," as Jesus said. A collective group feels much more like a body than a collection of individuals. They have "groupthink" in which everyone generally comes to the same opinion. They have almost a mob mentality, in which it is really hard to resist doing what everyone else is doing.

In China, where one person in a milk company substitutes cheap chemical additives for the actual cream in the milk, the whole company lost face when it came to light, even more so than it would have in America. People all over China stopped drinking milk entirely for a year after it was revealed. How unfair! How can we punish the entire diary and milk industry for one person's mistake?  First, in a collectivist society, one person doesn't do that unless there's a widespread corruption making it possible to go against the group.  Second, it's the way of nature to some extent.  If your knee gives out, your whole body ain't going to win the race. 

It may be nearly incomprehensible to us today to understand why the whole Jewish nation should suffer for one person's mistake, and why that one person along with all his family and possessions should be stoned and burned.  But after living in a collectivist culture a while--it's starting to make sense.  But let's take it a little more personally before we leave it.

Are there any areas in your life you are secretly compromising in?  What secret sins do you indulge in but try to separate from the rest of your life?  You know it's going to influence the rest of your life as well.  Find those points of compromise and stone and burn them out.  As long as you harbor these compromises willfully, can you expect to be whole and healthy?

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