I’m honored to be part of a new blog series about racial reconciliation, hosted by Alexis Goring, focused on how we as Christians can be the change we want to see in our world. In preparation for this, I’ve been reading a few books to help me better understand the history of the racial tensions in the western world, America in particular—beyond just the obvious. One of the books I’m reading is Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison. It’s a great read in general, and one section in particular has really resonated with me. Especially, I think, because it’s something I hadn’t always understood.
Corporate sin. Corporate grief over it. Corporate repentance.
What do I mean by that?
Well, we all know that our country’s history isn’t exactly stellar when it comes to things like how we treat minorities. I distinctly remember learning about not only slavery but relations with the Native Americans in the first few hundred years of our history and feeling this deep shame. I was probably twelve or so when this hit me. Not because I’d studied it in school, but because I was reading fiction set on the prairie—Christian fiction that showed me so clearly how real people were, no matter their culture or appearance. I was just a kid, but I remember thinking, “Things like this make me ashamed to be white. How could people have treated others so?”
Was it me who committed those atrocities and sins? No. But I firmly believe it’s important that we as individuals grieve, lament, and repent of such things. First because it will keep us from committing the same atrocities and sins—judging people as less than us because of their culture or appearance. Second because it helps us empathize with others who suffered them. Third, because I am still benefiting by the atrocities “my people” committed. And finally because until a group as a whole repents of something a group as a whole did, healing can’t happen.
We see the example for this all through the Bible. Who cried out for mercy on behalf of Israel? Prophets. Are they the ones guilty of the sins for which they’re repenting? Of forsaking God? Of worshipping idols? Of selling out their beliefs for physical things? NO. Of course not. So why was it the prophets taking responsibility for this sin they’d spent their lives warning people against? I’d never taken the time to really consider this.
That it is the RIGHTEOUS who cry out to God on behalf of their nation.
It is the RIGHTEOUS who lament the falling away before the Lord.
It is the RIGHTEOUS who willingly speak for the sinners, who claim that WE have sinned, that WE have angered God, that WE have done wrong, and that WE need forgiveness. Not THEY. WE.
Why we? Because a nation is not just a collection of individuals. A nation is a group that has a shared identity. That rises and falls together.
I find it infinitely curious that American Christians are so quick to identify as a nation in one respect, when it comes to claiming blessings and supremacy…but we largely ignore a corporate claiming of sin. When we’re talking about that part—about our nation’s failings, about the great divide that exists, about the violence and rage running through our core—it’s usually THEY.
THEY who have fallen away. THEY who turn to violence. THEY who cling to hate.
Here’s the thing, my friends. We cannot expect THEM—the unbelievers—to turn to God and repent until WE, the Christ followers, cry out to God on behalf of our nation. Repent on behalf of our nation. Humble OURSELVES on behalf of our nation.
Then—only then—will God heal our land.
I hear so many believers crying out for a change in circumstances. Begging God to put an end to the violence, the racial struggle, to “help them see reason.” What I don’t see nearly enough of is believers seeking a genuine healing. Willing to take responsibility. Willing to change any part of their own lives to help this change happen.
We may march on Washington and pray. But do we ever look at the people historically oppressed and apologize? We may ask God to change things. But do we offer a sacrifice of our own things to help it happen? We may recognize the sin all around us. But do we claim it as our own and fall before Him, begging for atonement?
This nation has a lot to repent of. A lot to atone for. And until we recognize that infection still eating away at our core, we have no hope of true healing. But until we seek HEALING, rather than just relief of symptoms, those symptoms will not—CANNOT—go away. They may quiet for a while, but the infection will erupt again. It’s the nature of the thing.
It rubs us the wrong way to think that we might have to pay for what someone else did. But we found our entire faith on just that, don’t we? That Christ could, should have, and did pay for our sins. He took on the guilt. The responsibility. The punishment.
We are called to be like Christ.
Lord my God, we have sinned. We have fallen away from You. We seek our own instead of our neighbors’, and certainly instead of Yours. We profit from situations founded on sin. We cling to our gods of money and security instead of Your hand. Forgive us, Father. Forgive us. Show us how to love as You love. To reach out as Jesus did. Teach us how to cleanse our own hearts, our families, our communities, and our nations of the foul stench of hatred and greed. Show us how to truly be like Christ. How to #BeBetter. In His precious name, Amen.