“It’s not my fault!” The cry is heard routinely not only from children, but also from politicians, businessmen and, yes, from me. When things go wrong, our natural tendency is to find who is to blame, especially if we can get the fingers pointed away from ourselves.
I heard on the news recently about a situation that occurred in one of our military academies. While the commander, I’m sure, had zero foreknowledge of events, he immediately took full responsibility and began to clean up the mess. That’s not only leadership, but it also speaks to the unity of the group. Because a failure happened within the unit, the entire group owned it. In our Lone Ranger culture, that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Our Jewish friends have a tradition as the Days of Awe approach. They pray for forgiveness – as a community. Personal responsibility and individual sins are addressed, but the focus is on the people as a group. These prayers are called selichot, communal prayers of penitence seeking divine forgiveness. These liturgical recitations have Torah verses woven throughout them as they call upon the character of God for mercy.
The Church can be strengthened through this practice as well. First we must take time to reflect on our personal sins and seek forgiveness. But then, from this humbled state, we will be able to join together – aware of our need for God and each other. We can acknowledge the truth that we are connected as a body. If we are truly one, then we will seek forgiveness together as well. As we corporately take responsibility and commit together to repentance, it portrays our unity. And even within this unity, I am compelled to ask what involvement I may have had in our collective failure.
Was our church unloving? Lacking hospitality?
How did I treat the stranger?
Have we failed to care for the weak?
Where did I miss an opportunity to offer help?
Is there injustice?
Did I personally take a stand for truth?
Did I allow a lie to go unchallenged?
Have we become complacent to suffering around us?
Am I willing to sacrifice to alleviate need around me?
Did I answer the plea from our brothers and sisters across the world? Or leave that to someone else? Did I even make known the need?
As the Jewish holidays take a time out to remember, I want to learn from their example. It’s so easy to skim through these busy days, but I need to reflect and repent. Will you join me?
You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin. You withdrew all Your wrath; You turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation. Psalm 85:2-4