A crucial message of the Biblical prophets was for the people to repent. But is this a message we still need to hear today?
I know I’ve been to plenty of services, prayer meetings, and small groups where the subject was repentance. Only I’m pretty sure at these events I mostly heard about and prayed for other people’s sins. Often labeled as the sins of the entire culture or nation, and utilizing the inclusive appeal of “we”, most of the topics covered were about what non-Christians, or liberal Christians, do. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but such has been my experience.
Yes, we need to repent as a nation for abortion, for the acceptance of specific sexual sins and predilections, for the disregard of the glory, worship, and fear of the Lord in public places. But first and foremost we need to repent for ourselves. For our personal selves, and then for our own churches and ministry.
I know that I must repent for my self centered wants and desires. I must repent for greed and an unhealthy desire for worldly praise and acceptance. I must repent anger. I must repent pride. I must repent for the ways I have not represented Christ when I had a chance and I must repent for the risks I never took to share His word when prompted. I must repent for the ways I have hardened my heart to others. I must repent for the daily transgressions and temptations that separate me from my holy calling as a child of the King.
Collective repentance is important, but we need to start with a heart of truthful, introspective, contrition for our own personal sinfulness.
The American Church must repent for the ways that we have failed as a body to be good stewards of the gospel. We must repent for the ways we have divided and broken and looked inward when we should have been reaching out.
We must repent of our own lusts, sexual deviances, and sins: of our own divorces and adultery, for our own abortions, for our own sexual and spiritual abuse, for our own addictions, and for our own vain glory and pride. We must repent for the ways we have not supported families, for the ways we have not challenged or changed generational sins.
We must repent our racial segregation. We must repent for each time we have diminished, and not built up, another eternal soul.
We must repent our prejudices, our coarseness of heart, and our weakness of mind. We must repent our wrath against others, against ourselves. We must repent for sloth in our daily lives and for the gluttony we partake in with our mouths and with our money.
We must repent for the ways that we overlook those in need, and for the ways that we don’t reach out to the lost. We must repent for the times we have turned people away, for the ones we have lost through our own weaknesses and failures. We must repent for the children who have left the church and for the aged who we never found.
We must repent for the ways we have muddled political aims with gospel witness. We must repent for the ways that we let the desires of our flesh, our greed, trample upon the oppressed around the world. We must repent our love of power, wealth, and influence. We must repent our envy of the world and our envy of one another. We must repent our false idols and for our hypocrisy in how we criticize those who are far from God.
We must repent for the ways we have turned a blind eye to certain transgressions and transgressors when it suits us while harshly condemning others who stand in our way.
We must repent our false teachings and for the ways we lead each other astray. We must repent our fears, our lack of faith, and for the ways we seek security in anything other than the Lord God Almighty. We must repent all of our cultural accommodations, which have taken us away from the heart of the gospel.
For all these and more, the American church must repent.
Our nation has many problems. So yes, let us pray for our nation and for national repentance and national revival. But first we must pray for a restoration of the American church and for the strengthening of holiness in each person in this country who calls upon the name of Christ.
If we want to see an America that truly honors and glorifies Christ, let us first join together in the spirit and mission of St. Francis of Assisi. It is time we look to rebuild God’s church, starting first on our knees.