It is our part, our responsible co-operation, in world history.All evildoers and reprehensible actions may not be equal, but neither are any of us innocent, or even wholly lacking in complicity with the evils around. Much focus is put in Christian thinking on the depravity of humanity and the inheritance of the original sin, but leaving it in this mysterious ambiguity we perhaps resist putting any thought into our ongoing embeddedness in the evil structures and systems and contagions of our time and history.
But if we are guilty of withdrawal, i.e., from our fellow-men, in this history, what are we in our time? What is the meaning of our life? Why have we been given time to live and work? How shall we stand before God and in His judgment? Will this not be brought against us? Will we not be accused? You were no help to me in my history which was interwoven with yours. You ignored me. I was of no interest to you. You disappointed me when I waited for you. You had no time for me. You merely played with me.
Or again, you only appeared to help, but in reality harmed me. You led me astray, so that it was only with the greatest difficulty, if at all, that I was able to get back to the right path. You confirmed me in that from which you ought to have kept me. And you kept me from that in which I needed confirmation.
Or again, you would not yield to me. In your great righteousness, or simply because you were the stronger, you pushed me to the wall. You humiliated and wounded me. You trampled over me contemptuously and perhaps even derisively, pursuing your own ends. For some reason which I cannot understand you blocked my path. You surrendered and betrayed me. You took from me the dearest that I had. The encounter with you cost me my life.
Yes, we shall certainly have to render our accounts in relation to others, and we must see to it that they are in good order. But who of us will have any real advantage over the rest? Will we not all have our own burden of accusation? And what will be the net result for us all if the only upshot is an awful conflict of mutual recriminations?(Karl Barth, The Doctrine of Reconciliation 2, 444-445)
Today's über-concern with ecology has perhaps driven home this point. We all realize that our carbon footprint, our patterns of consumption and waste, and our participation in the economy of the globally advantaged is a small contribution to the degredation of the earth and the unjust dispersal of its resources. Though each of us as individuals may not be able to stem the tide, we recognize that by our actions we either take part in this degredation or we contribute (however minutely) to reform. Many of us stand paralyzed at the question of what we can do, but we also sense that we are nothing but implicated if we do not make a start somewhere.
We know the concept of complicity when it comes to the environment, now what about if we recognize it in other areas as well? This complicity does not render us unable to make judgments about what is right or wrong in this world, but it does remind us to come under that spotlight ourselves, to not make those judgments in self-righteousness, and to take to heart our own calls for reform in the concrete context of our own capabilites.
Rick Mirer may be the worst NFL quarterback ever, but every Monday morning quarterback who ever mocked him would stand to learn much about playing football with him as their tutor.
When Jesus reminds us of the planks in our eyes, is he thinking of our abstract "sinfulness" or of the complicities we'd find if we paid attention? Is not the truest prophetic word the one that comes in confession? Does it not ring hollow if we pray for peace on earth without getting up in mercy and beginning to love our neighbour?