Twenty-first century evangelicals spend an extraordinary amount of time pointing out the sins evident in the culture. But instead of doing that, couldn’t the church make the confession of its own sins a higher priority?
Great insight. Great question, penned by the four authors of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith. In the introduction to this new release, Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson and Soong-Chan Rah acknowledge:
Many people have grown angry and frustrated with organized religion – and with evangelical Christianity in particular. Too often the church has proven a source of pain rather than a place of hope … Forgive Us acknowledges the legitimacy of much of that anger and recognizes that the church through the ages has experienced significant brokenness, a brokenness that demands to be acknowledged and repented of.
The authors add:
Many Christians today are unaware of the events that mark the American church’s greatest tragedies. In Forgive Us, we seek to provide brief, accurate, and compelling histories of some of the church’s greatest shortcomings … When the church has a holistic understanding of its failings, repentance is the appropriate response.
I’m personally acquainted with three of the four authors of Forgive Us. They know I’ve written a book with a similar theme and are aware how profoundly I agree with the statements above. When they asked me to read a preview copy of their book and, if I chose, to write an endorsement, I said yes to both.
In Forgive Us, the authors courageously explore a variety of ways that we in the US church have treated shabbily both the land with which we’ve been entrusted and people made in the image of God. Further, they offer heartfelt confessions, inviting others to join in, and they highlight signs of hope for change.
In a similar way (compelling history, genuine confession, reasons for hope), I explore the more specific subject of the church’s sins surrounding the bloodiest division and war to date in US history. My book is called, We Confess! The Civil War, The South, and The Church. Interestingly, whether you’re looking at the broader picture of Forgive Us or the more pinpointed We Confess, some strikingly parallel themes emerge.
First, we in the US church culture tend to have an “us vs. them” mentality, and we do not treat “them” as we ourselves would want to be treated.
Second, we have a propensity for both denial and pride. As the authors of Forgive Us have written:
The American church often chooses to ignore its own tainted history and move too quickly toward offering solutions for everyone else’s problems.
Third, the pathway that we’ve believed too hard – the way of confession and repentance – is the only way out. It’s the path to healing, reconciliation, life.
Consider these reflections from Forgive Us:
Godly grief does not paralyze with a pervasive sense of guilt. Rather, it identifies specific ways we have turned from God and offers a holy opportunity for the restoration of relationship with God, others, and the land by reconnecting our hearts to God’s heart and then to the hearts of those we have made to suffer. Godly grief leads to cleansing confession and repentance.
Godly confession tells the truth about God, about us, and about our actions. It tells the truth about the repercussions our actions have for us, our relationship with God, our families, others, the rest of creation, the systems that govern us, and life itself …
Godly lament and confession should lead to repentance, and repentance requires an about-face in our actions and a deep change in our way of life.
Thank you, Mae, Lisa, Troy and Soong-Chan, for choosing the path of confession and repentance, and opening the way for others to come too.
Quotations are from Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), pp. 29, 31, 32, 27, 24, 25.
. . . . . . .
Look inside Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith