Love in the Hard Times: Practicing Repentance

It is crazy to think that only a week ago, I posted a blog about the importance of abiding in Christ and maintaining the warmth of our love during stressful seasons. I wrote that as a reflection on how I’ve seen the stress of covid and social distancing affecting the world around me.

Our world has changed since last week. 

That is not to say that there was no racial inequality and no police brutality prior to this week. There was – so much more than many of us will ever be able to comprehend – and I am not fit to detail it. I cannot speak for the millions of black Americans and people of color who have had to live daily in this reality. 

What I can do is speak to my own people. 

I am a thoroughly white American. I don’t know of any ancestors of mine who immigrated to America any later than the early 1800’s. That means my ancestors certainly contributed, whether by active choice or with passive complicity, to the racial inequality and oppression of people of color that is our reality today. And if I am honest with myself, as a thoroughly white American, I have benefited from that inequality and contributed to it. 

The Bible teaches us to make a practice of repentance. And even though we love to tout that each individual is only accountable for their own personal sins, our fathers in the faith made a practice of repenting for the sins of their fathers. That means I must repent, both of my own complicity in the oppression of people of color, and of the legacy of this evil I have inherited.

In Daniel 9, Daniel turns his face to God during Israel’s captivity and makes this confession for his people:

“O LORD, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep this commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. To you, O LORD, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame… To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice.”

Likewise, Nehemiah prays:

“O LORD God of heaven… let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant… confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant…”

Are you still with me?

I have sinned. My fathers have sinned. The leaders that my people have appointed have sinned. I am grieved as I continue to learn the depths of that sin.

If you are a thoroughly white American like me, I would like to lead us in a time of confession and repentance for us and our people. I pray that we will find the heart of Jesus in these confessions and that the warmth of our love will be strengthened through them. I am going to steal the form of Amy Carmichael’s confessionary book If…

Ready?

  • If I am not willing to examine my heart and actions and confess my sin to God and to my neighbor, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I choose to ignore injustice instead of becoming an ally to those who are suffering, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I am too occupied with my own troubles that I cannot empathize with others who are suffering, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If the thought of people of color enjoying the same privileges that I do feels like a threat to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love. 
  • If I think people of color should meet my expectations of good conduct before they can enjoy the same privileges as me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I find the phrase “Black Lives Matter” offensive or threatening, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I am too concerned with proving I’m not racist to hear what I’ve done wrong or what I could improve on, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I make no effort to mend the behaviors or thoughts for which I’ve been reproved, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I am an ally on my own terms and fail to listen to the people I’m supposed to be supporting, then I know nothing of Calvary love. 
  • If I care about racial inequality for a week and then move on with my life, then I know nothing of Calvary love. 

Friends, I pray that we will draw closer to this Calvary love. I pray that we will be teachable and patient, humble and gentle, courageous and resolute in pursuing God’s perfect justice as we navigate this season. I have two benedictions for us:

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

And, ” May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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