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CAN NATIONAL SIN BE FORGIVEN? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Sunday, 05 February 2012

CAN NATIONAL SIN BE FORGIVEN?

By Jim Jordal

 

And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land

2 Chronicles 7:12-14, KJV, emphasis mine

Many Christians believe that sin consists only of acts committed by individuals against individuals (murder), or by individuals against God (idolatry). They believe that such sins can be forgiven through sincere, contrite confession and application of the redemptive grace provided by Christ at Calvary. These beliefs constitute the core of faith for many Christians.

But Scripture speaks often of sins reaching far beyond individual acts against God or other persons. These arise from willful disobedience by highly placed leaders and their followers to the will of God for the political and social entities we now call nations. National sin usually takes the form of unrighteous behavior in violation of God’s law for economic, social, political and religious matters. Oppression of the poor and vulnerable, public worship and sacrifice to other gods, excessive interaction with people of enemy cultures and the choosing of kings not ordained by God are examples of national sin.

Some Christians today discount the existence and importance of national sin by claiming that it existed only in the Old Testament as Israel disobeyed the Mosaic Code. Some believe that Christ canceled this form of sin, and so sin now exists only as individual acts in contradiction to the teachings of Christ and the epistles of Paul and others. Some also claim that the Scripture quoted above applied only to ancient Israel, and is thus no longer relevant.

If you don’t believe in national sin today, to what do you attribute the widespread rejection of Christ in public affairs, the continuing oppression of common people by powerful economic interests, the dominance of militarism in our budget, the economic penetration of sovereign cultures for our own ends, the disappearance of decency from public entertainment, and the rape of nature to support an unsustainable lifestyle? Do only individuals perpetrate these sins with no impact on others? Or are they sins perpetrated by groups of people against all human beings? If they are the latter, then they’re national sins.

The Bible verses quoted above took place at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. King Solomon concluded eight days of consecration and celebration with a partial reiteration of several earlier covenants with Israel to the effect that national obedience to God’s law would bring prosperity, peace and blessing while disobedience would entail God’s displeasure in the form of drought, agricultural pests and pestilence for both humans and animals.

And God supplied a cure for the nation’s distress. He commissioned Solomon and those who followed him to humble themselves, pray, seek his face, and turn from their wicked ways. This national repentance and rededication to the law of God would result in forgiveness for their national sin and the healing of their land from the curses resulting from sin.

But there’s an "if" at the beginning of verse 14 indicating that national forgiveness and a healing of the land would happen only if preceded by humility, prayer, seeking God and turning from sin. That’s sounds pretty much like what our nation needs to do today. We are loaded with national sin in all its forms, but we fail to recognize it as sin, preferring to sugar coat it with excuses like "that’s only an expression of cultural diversity," or that it’s correctable if only humans would try harder. But no matter what we call it, it’s national sin committed by leaders supported by an ignorant, misinformed citizenry interested only in personal pleasure and financial success.

God revealed to Solomon that the only cure for national malaise resulting from national sin lay in public humility, sincere prayer, a deliberate seeking of God’s will, and a great turning from sinful behaviors and beliefs. Then, and only then, would God do his part of forgiving the sin and healing the suffering land.

So, are we willing yet to turn to God in humility, prayer, seeking and turning from sin? It doesn’t seem that we are, so God just turns up the heat a bit more—more financial distress, more family breakdown, more natural disasters, more idiotic entertainment and so on. Someday we’ll become willing to listen and then, and only then, will our national sin be forgiven and our land be healed.