Ever since a notorious incident involving a serpent and some infamous fruit, sin has been a pervasive and destructive influence in both our world and individual lives. This original sin broke the world, and all people to come after Adam and Eve have been born tainted by it. But the good news for sinners is this: Christ died for us and the stain of sin is removed. However, to leave the past sentence as it is would be a limited presentation of the Gospel.
Historically, the nations we call the global “West” (generally understood as the United States and most of Western Europe), have been nations of conquerors. Imperialism, colonialism, and domination comprise our history.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we look back in horror at all of our offenses and injustices. We then cry out for mercy, and rejoice in the truth that our sins have been atoned for. The blood on our hands has been washed clean, but whose blood was it?
Sin has a two-fold consequence: 1) justice is demanded upon the one who committed the sin, and 2) the one who has been sinned against is hurt. Korean theologian Andrew Sung Park introduces the Korean word “han” to help understand the second consequence. Han means “a critical wound generated by unjust psychosomatic, social, political, economic, and cultural repression and oppression,” and is the receiving end of sin.
In short, if sin is the knife, then han is the gash. As an example, consider Cain and Abel. When Cain kills Abel , Abel’s blood cries out to God from the ground (Gen 4:10) because of the injustice enacted upon him. This crying out is han.
Now think of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus ministered to the downtrodden, raised up the weak, and empowered the powerless. Much of his attention was focused on victims: the orphan, the widow, the poor, the alien. Not only did he die to forgive our sins, he died so that the broken may be healed. However, I believe our Western minds have glazed over this aspect of the gospel in favor of a dominant focus on justification. This focus ultimately impairs our approach to ministry. We’ve become so concerned with the forgiveness of sins (as good and holy and beautiful as it is) that we end up applying it to the han of people’s lives.
In the practical sense, our conquerors’ view of justification leads to us ascribe the blame for a sinful act back on the victim’s past sin. Too often pastors and counselors attempt to find the “root sin” of a victim of rape or consider the infliction of disease to be divine punishment. I don’t mean to diminish the doctrine of original sin, for indeed all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), but I don’t believe that every calamity befalling a person is meant as God’s active enactment of karma. To acknowledge han would be to acknowledge that the brokenness of the world means that often times the innocent suffer inexplicably.
Taking this into consideration, the power and significance of the Gospel is extended to its fullest magnificence and potency. For Jesus Christ did not just die to atone for sins, but to heal the wounds caused by sin, whose healing is fully realized and made whole with the hope of heaven.