Name the Narrative as the Sin Lurking at Our Door, by Daniel Hill
OCTOBER 3, 2020
The first time the Bible uses the word sin comes as part of a vivid object lesson in Genesis 4.
The recipient of the lesson is Cain, who we come to discover is growing increasingly angry with his brother, Abel. Rather than passively allowing Cain to walk down a path of destruction, God decides to actively initiate a loving intervention with a warning that doubles as our introduction to the word sin:
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6–7)
Two features of this description help us to understand sin in general and provide a template for theologically categorizing the narrative of racial hierarchy.
Feature 1: Sin functions like a predator. The traditional definition of sin often focuses on behaviors and obedient living, and that makes sense. But here we get something that is much more far-reaching than breaking rules. The Hebrew word used is the same one that describes a predator slowly stalking its prey before eventually striking. This metaphor depicts sin as being powered by a darkness that desires our ultimate destruction, which is exactly what happened to Cain.
Feature 2: Sin hides. If it’s not already scary enough to see sin depicted as a predator, we also see that sin intentionally disguises its threat level in the hope of lulling its prey into a false sense of comfort. The only way sin becomes powerful is when we choose to treat it as powerless.
The image of a deadly predator disguising itself as a harmless threat seems like the perfect way to describe the sin represented by the narrative of racial hierarchy. In the same way that Cain’s unchecked sin led to the death of his brother Abel, so too has the unchecked sin of the narrative led to the death of our brothers and sisters of color. Cain’s murder of Abel led to God saying, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground . . .” (Genesis 4:10–11). I believe God would say the same thing to the church. We have allowed the sin of the narrative to go historically unchallenged and to create the conditions for so much bloodshed.
During the age of conquest, the sin of the narrative lurked, and hundreds of thousands of Native people were killed. Their blood cries out to God from the ground.
During the age of slavery, the sin of the narrative lurked, and hundreds of thousands of African people were raped, molested, tortured, and murdered. Their blood cries out to God from the ground.
During the age of lynching, the sin of the narrative lurked, and more than 4,700 people were hanged, drowned, and burned alive. Their blood cries out to God from the ground.
And yet, despite the overwhelming evidence before us—despite the witness of hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters whose blood calls out to us from the ground—it seems we are no closer to collectively calling the narrative of racial hierarchy a sin now than we were back then. I spend a lot of time in White Christian circles, and I am continuously amazed at how complacent we are about the threat level represented by this sin. Even those of us who can regurgitate the facts of past calamities seem to remain strangely calm when it comes to the ongoing threat level of the narrative of racial hierarchy. If the sin of the narrative hunted us like a predator then, why would it not do the same now? If the sin of the narrative wanted to “have” us then, why would it not want to have us now?
Daniel Hill is the founding and senior pastor of River City Community Church, located in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Excerpt adapted from White Lies: Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us © 2020 by Daniel Hill. Published by Zondervan. Used by permission.
 See “History of Lynchings,” NAACP, www.naacp.org/history-of-lynchings.