“We,” Not “They”

So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.

“Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets.” (Daniel 9:3–10 NASB)

In Daniel 9, the nation of Israel is in exile in Babylon, not because God is whimsical but because of the very real sin and idolatry of his people. Prayer is a posture which should be natural to all of God’s people, so it is not surprising that during this time of exile and suffering Daniel turns to God with the physical evidences of extreme humility: fasting and wearing sackcloth and ashes.

The content of Daniel’s prayer is quite noteworthy. While he was certainly not perfect (only Jesus is!), the biblical account does not identify any specific sins committed by Daniel. But nonetheless, Daniel repents as a member of the people of God; he identifies with his people who have turned their backs on God, people disappointed in the God they expected to give them advantage instead of exile. Even though he may not have committed the sins or iniquities for which he is repenting, Daniel confesses and repents, and he repeatedly prays as “we,” not “they.”

What is our “we”?

Followers of Jesus whose identity are in Christ share this identity with every other professing Christian, despite differing in many ways, including traditions, political beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds. This is our “we” in the eyes of the Lord, but, in our minds, our “we” is often much smaller than the entire confessing church. Though we identify with the Prince of Peace, we struggle with maintaining relationships of peace with other Christ followers.

We are reminded by the Apostle Paul that though this is not good, it is also not new. In 1 Corinthians 1, he challenges the church in Corinth to have hearts of unity toward one another, asking them rhetorically, “Is Christ divided?” Lest we go past that question too quickly, the word can mean cut into pieces, torn apart, butchered. Is Christ butchered?

The Gospel reminds us of the intense sacrifice Christ went through for our salvation, his body tortured on the cross. Surely he sits at the right hand of the Father, intact and awaiting the time to return to earth. And yet too often the church he died for rips at the unity he sought through his body to establish, harboring hearts of division toward others in the church.

Would that our “we” lines up with God’s view of his children, that we can identify in love with our brothers and sisters who vary in so many ways. May we share in the journey toward healing and sanctification, work toward the unity Jesus prays for us to have, and live out the peace he has in actuality won for us.
Wayne Stapleton is the NAB VP of Cross-Cultural Engagement & Emerging Leader Engagement.