Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 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. (Daniel 9:3–10 ESV)
The old hymn asks the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The implied answer to this question is a resounding, Yes! I need to take responsibility of the actions of the Jewish leaders who accused Jesus, the crowd that yelled “CRUCIFY HIM!”, and the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. As Christians, most of us recognize the truth of this, and yet we have a hard time accepting corporate responsibility for the sins of our society.
Daniel, however, is an example of how the individual follower of God can take up the corporate sins of the people of God and plea for God’s mercy. Daniel was not there when his ancestors – the kings and princes of Israel and the fathers who had come before him – rebelled against God, and yet he states, “We have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.” Daniel identifies with the sins of his culture or his forefathers. He doesn’t make self-righteous excuses exempting himself from the sins of ancestors. No, he cries out, “I was there!”
This Lenten season, may we as individual believers take time to confess the corporate sins of our culture, of our ancestors, or our society. May we recognize that when Christ was crucified, we were there. At the sale of slaves, we were there. At the ending of the innocent life of the unborn, we were there. At the decimation of native cultures, we were there. May we plead for forgiveness from a great and awesome God who keeps his covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.
This is not to accept feelings of guilt or shame, for Christ has won a victory over these on the cross! But if Christ takes up these sins upon the cross and asks us to follow his example, then we too can accept corporate responsibility, plead on behalf of our culture for forgiveness, and do what we can to affect change for his glory.