The Apostle John wrote to Christians in his day and afterward:
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 1:5-2:2 – NIV).
Fellow Christians in the United States of America, the recent killings of black Americans forcefully bring to our attention our national sin of which the church in America has been complicit. John’s message appeals to us to recognize, admit, confess, and repent of our sins. Americans who claim to be Christian yet absolve themselves of guilt are, according to John’s words, practicing self-deception – more bluntly, lying. Jesus Christ is the resolution of this problem for all of us. He forgives those who recognize, admit, confess, and repent of sinning. In addition, He works with us to cleanse us of the root cause of sin within us.
It is as simple as that.
So what are we waiting for? As an African American, I recognize, admit, confess, and repent of my participation in this sin. Oh yes, although I have suffered much as a victim of racism, I too have sinned. To those who cannot see their part in group-sin, please consider Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9. Did he absolve himself of the sins of his fellow Jews, sins that personally he tried to avoid committing? Take note of how God responds to his prayer, revealing His marvelous resolution.
Repentance is a change of mind like a 180-degree turnabout in attitude and behavior. It does not involve pay back, because it is toward God, and there is no way to repay God for sin. He paid for it Himself on the cross. In joyful acceptance of His grace toward us, we relinquish ourselves to Him.
To Christians in America and everyone everywhere, repentance is not just something that takes place in a religious place or in our minds or on our knees. The fruit of repentance involves concrete, outward, and comprehensive actions. Let me suggest just a few related to division in this country:
- Welcome everyone equally into fellowship. Repent of racially segregated congregations, groups of all sizes, and organizations.
- Accept and celebrate the differences in people. Repent of thinking of yourself as superior, or of others as inferior.
- Serve those who for whatever reason are in need. Repent of hoarding the generous things that God gives to everyone, and of participating in societal practices that hold down others.
Welcoming, accepting, and serving form the acronym WAS. Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit please bring about in us (individually and collectively in our churches) the day when racism no longer is but WAS!