if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
A while back, I watched a video on YouTube in which a Christian pastor who I like and admire issued a repentance that wasn’t very repentant. In view of the above Scripture, he was seeking to offer some form of repentance to the Lord. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like he could think of anything that the American church had done wrong over the last 50 years. Though there was some genuine sorrow for the sin in our land, a hostile caricature of what he prayed could go as follows: “Lord, we repent that the liberals have committed millions of abortions despite the fact that we opposed them and we repent of the fact that the liberals have tolerated gay marriage despite the fact that we opposed them and we repent of the fact that the liberals have tolerated extra-marital sex and divorce despite the fact that we opposed them. Please forgive us and heal our land.”
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. (1 Samuel 12:23)
Though I do not believe that the above caricature of his prayer of repentance would be a fair one, I will say that my brother’s prayer of repentance left quite a bit to be desired. Repentance is a serious business and if you are going to get on your face to repent before the Lord, you should really go over your life with an open-heart and a microscope. Such an examination must at least demonstrate enormous failures of the kind that Samuel mentions above. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’s daily love and devotion and sins of omission of this kind can be very serious indeed.
Beyond ubiquitous sins of omission however, I think that my brother has ignored sins that are more serious. When we have rebuked the world for sins like abortion and homosexuality, we have acted as though the reason such behaviour should be avoided is because it is in the Bible case-closed. Allowing antinomians to “take the high ground” in the debates on abortion and homosexuality by arguing on the basis of Old Testament law instead of New Testament love made the commands of God seem like the unreasonable and arbitrary dictates of a totalitarian instead of the commands of a loving father. This weakened our case and betrayed those who were seeking a genuine understanding into the hands of the enemy. For an example of how we could have argued against abortion, see my previous post.
But there are even more serious sins that my brother neglected in his incomplete repentance. These are sins where where the church has actively ignored the word of God and acted in an unrighteous manner. As I have discussed in a previous post, the most serious instance of this occurred in 2005 when the Republicans passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act on a party line vote without one single dissenting Christian voice pointing out that this was locking the chains of abominable usury on an unsuspecting public. If Christians only stand for righteousness when it is politically convenient, then how can we be surprised that the Holy one of Israel has not blessed our efforts?
Lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:13)
But the worst sins that the church has committed over the entire course of our history are the sins of interpreting the Old Testament as though the prophets therein were as righteous as Jesus Christ. This is a continuous theme on my blog and I have written about it extensively, but presenting the Old Testament as though Moses and Jesus were at the same level contaminates the gospel and makes it ineffective at reaching skeptical people. The Lord commands that we “ask, seek and knock”, that we love Him with all of our minds and that we always have a ready defence for the hope that is in our hearts. Given these commands, we owed non-Christians the very best answers to tough questions about the Bible that we could come up with, yet we were content with poor answers because we were going to heaven and we didn’t really care about those who were on their way to hell. All of the above sins have been committed by the church over the last 50 years and all of them have led our nation to destruction and require repentance.