Recently, many of us saw the video of the unjust treatment and killing of George Floyd. Since then, chaos and destruction have inflicted cities all across the United States. There is a lot of concern, fear, anger, and rage. But is there hope?
Nehemiah was a Jew and served as a cupbearer to a foreign king. Word was brought to Nehemiah concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the great city of his homeland. Upon hearing the news, he sat down and wept. For days, being anguished in spirit, he fasted and prayed.
I believe within Nehemiah‘s prayer we can find hope and healing for our nation.
First, he humbled himself before God, acknowledging His faithfulness in both love and word. As he prays, he says:
I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” ~ Nehemiah 1:6-9 (ESV)
Notice, he confesses the sins of the people at large, he then shifts attention to his own sin and those of his father’s house. All of these sins contributed to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Our nation is spiraling downward. It has been for some time, but the pace seems to be increasing. There is not just a single sin by a particular group of people. Rather, there are a host of sins each of us have contributed.
At large, we have so many politicians and big businesses cemented in corruption—greed, lust for power, sexual scandals, deceit, and even crimes of all sorts. Then there is Hollywood with all its vain extravagance, well known for all its immorality and mockery of God. Added to this is its love for debauchery, not only indulging in sex, but also substances. Even the church is not guiltless, as many churches have turned away from the faith and true teachings of the Bible. Churches are well known for hypocrisy and judgmentalism. Yet, the sins do not stop here. Added to these are the areas of education and journalism, rewriting history and polishing stories, not for the sake of truly educating or showing what is happening, but rather propagating and brainwashing. Yet, again, the sins do not stop here.
Now, bringing it in closer to—but not quite—home, I saw a touching video. There were two groups: one side was “whites” and the other side “blacks.” The whites were kneeling, and one man prayed aloud, confessing to God our sins and the sins of our fathers. Acknowledging real injustices done to blacks. The black community joined in prayer, as a man pronounced forgiveness, then acknowledged the anger and resentment of theirs and their fathers. I know of one writer who mocked this video; yet, the prayers of these men and communities are in line with the prayer of Nehemiah. Neither side blamed the other, but simply owned up to personal sins and sins of society before God. This, I believe, can open genuine discussion and healing—IF we will let it.
Now, bringing it home, personally. This has been difficult as I have taken some spiritual inventory of my own life. I find it easier to burn bridges than to build them. I am guilty, at times, of being biased, partial, and assuming the worse in others before taking the time to know them. There are times when I do not validate another’s words or feelings. This is all sin, because I am not honoring those made in God’s image. I am not loving them as I love myself nor treating them the way I want to be treated. Thus, I have had to do my own share of confessing. But this has led to the reconciliation between a friend and me.
A lot of healing can take place in our world if we would humble ourselves, validate and honor others, genuinely own up to our own offenses, and let go of the anger, rage, biases, presumptions, refusal to forgive, and the like. Healing and hope are possible, even for our nation. However, the challenge for each of us is following the directions of what God prescribes to us. For many, this is too big a pill to swallow. Our own pride is often one of the biggest obstacles to genuine unity and healing.