Communal Confession and Encouragement: The Bible in Lent – Day 15
As we read through the Bible, one thing becomes crystal clear – the sins of our ancestors influence us. Whether you’re reading the law of Deuteronomy or the return of Nehemiah, there is a clear call to respond not just to our own sin, but the sins of our ancestors.
This pricks my American individualism.
I want to press on, isolated and self-focused. Like Cain, I want to defiantly ask God if I’m my brother’s keeper.
But of course, the answer is that I am.
We all are. God made covenants with us, not individually, but in the context of a community. And we are all supposed hold one another to those covenant promises.
The sins of those who came before us and those around us lead us astray. Like fish in water, we become desensitized to our surroundings and just accept that the unacceptable is acceptable.
Perspectives and sins are passed down. We saw in the Books of Kings how the cycles of sin in Israel never were fully wiped out. In the accounts of almost 20 kings, all persisted in the sin of Jeroboam. None called the people back to worship the way the Lord intended.
This is why God told the people carried into exile, they would need to confess their own sins and the sins of their ancestors.
We were not born alone on islands, we were born into communities. For better or worse, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and passed down our heritage. Unless we make a decision, or usually a series of decisions, to repent and break the cycle, we will just keep perpetuating the same sins.
Confessing sin, not just our own, but those that have led us to where we are, is a vital part of setting ourselves apart as the people of God.
One of the ways we break out of the perpetuating cycle of sin and embrace the life God has called us to live is by acknowledging we are part of a Body. Both in good ways and bad, our community and culture affect us. And just like sin can perpetuate in families in cultures, so too can the good things of God.
Properly ordered, community grows us into the people God created us to be.
In Christian community, faith grows and is nourished by the encouragement of others. In 2nd Timothy, Paul writes of providing an example to be imitated of what proper Christian living looked like (3:9). Hebrews tells us to spur one another on to good works and encourage one another (10:24-25).
We are not several, individual bodies of Christ. We are members of one Body for a reason.
In the middle of Nehemiah, the people of God so two things. First, they publicly confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors (9:2). Then, they publicly sign the covenant of God as a community.
We need both, communal confession and a call to mutual accountability if we are the break the cycle of sin and live as the people of God.
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