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Why the Black Community Cannot Grant Americans the Forgiveness They Seek

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Following a growing trend, physicians and other team members from Advocate Christ Medical Center knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd and to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. As her colleagues held signs reading “black lives matter” and “white coats for black lives,” Dr. Melissa Nater declared, “We remain committed to our oath to provide the best medical care possible to every patient that crosses our path, regardless of their station in life, their religious affiliation and their color. We do this, but we look at our beautiful brown children with the crushing reality that this world will never afford them this same level of equanimity and grace.”[1]

These physicians have joined a growing number of people who are eager to broadcast that they are not prejudice toward black people, but they understand that everybody else is. In doing so, they indict others while championing the notion of collective guilt, which is “guilt (or responsibility) for being a part of a group or a perceived group by putting up with, turning a blind eye to, or harboring people whose actions aren’t ones that you’ve actively partaken in.”[2]

This is wrong. Collective guilt contravenes our Christian faith (Eze. 18:20) and the very principles upon which our country was founded. Moreover, it makes us as a nation vulnerable to the tyranny of retaliation. Ben Shapiro explains:

The very idea of kneeling to atone for a sin you did not commit is sinful. It is sinful. If you did not commit a sin, and you are kneeling to atone for that sin, that is a paganistic ritual. One of the great discoveries of the Judeo-Christian religion is that you are not responsible for the sins of your parents—that, in fact, you are an individual who is responsible to God and others for the things that you do.

But the very idea that you’re supposed to kneel on behalf of a system that you did not create and do not like, or alternatively, that the system is to blame for all inequality, so you kneel on behalf of the system, what you’re really doing is you’re not kneeling to take in your own sin, what you’re really doing is you are kneeling in order to indict others. You’re really kneeling and virtue signaling in order to indict people who won’t kneel and who don’t believe the system is evil in order to indict the Founders, in order to indict people who won’t kneel for the flag, [that’s] really what a lot of this is about, and that’s immoral. That’s immoral.

If you are kneeling because you are just attempting to symbolize the police brutality that took George Floyd’s life, that is one thing, but it’s become much more than that. It has been linked to the Colin Kapernick kneeling; it’s been linked to the idea that America’s systemically racist. That is the message that is being promulgated.

If you are kneeling to suggest that America is evil, then you are doing something sinful because America is not evil. If you are kneeling to indict your fellow citizen as evil for not believing that America is evil, that is also sinful. If you are kneeling to take upon yourself a sin that you did not commit, that is sinful because you are an individual, and every individual ought to be answerable for his or her sins. They ought not be answerable for the sins of other people because once you start in with this idea that you are responsible for the sins of everybody else, that’s how you get to the brutality of collective responsibility.[3]

 

What we are witnessing in America today is an afront to the biblical practice of repentance and forgiveness. Kneeling before our fellow man in order to confess the sins of others and plead forgiveness is far from the biblical definition of repentance as being a radical turning away from one’s own practice or attitude. Moreover, the forgiveness we are witnessing from much of the black community makes a mockery of biblical forgiveness. This is a temporary forgiveness that refuses to forget grievances and is rescinded the moment it becomes convenient. The black community’s leadership has made it clear that there is no display of humility and earnestness sufficient to secure genuine forgiveness until the American system is abandoned, destroyed, and replaced.

In contrast, biblical forgiveness frees a person from the past (Psa. 103:12; Isa. 43:25). No longer must he bear the guilt of his prior failures—let alone the deficiencies of his ancestors. Indeed, as author and social critic Os Guinness says, “forgiveness free[s] the future from the burden of the past” and produces “a reconciliation in which enemies can be made truly friends.”[4] This is, in part, because biblical forgiveness continues even if a person re-offends (Matt. 18:21–22). Such forgiveness is only made possible through Christ who secured the possibility of lasting peace by sacrificing Himself to destroy the hostility between races, genders, and classes (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14–17).

An anti-biblical and Godless revolution against America’s system of government and way of life can never offer such forgiveness. We are fools if we believe any level of self-immolation will procure a genuine and last forgiveness that brings peace. If this is where our hope rests, we will be sorely disappointed.

Repentance from personal bigotry and seeking forgiveness from tangible examples of personal failures are a beautiful thing. They display Christ’s humility and a consideration that values others above one’s self. But this is not what we are seeing. The kneeling, empty platitudes, virtue signaling, and vague cries against the racism of other people have no place in Christian practice. It is immoral, and it only brings confusion to our message of true forgiveness for personal sins. Instead, we who understand true forgiveness and the freedom it affords should use this cultural moment to guide the many people overwhelmed by a sense of guilt to Jesus who is the only one capable of receiving their confession and rewarding it with peace and forgiveness.

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Timothy Zebell

Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Jones, Bill. “White Coats Speak out for Black Lives, Kneel in Silence for George Floyd.” Chicago Tribune, June 5, 2020, 5:39 p.m. https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/ct-sta-christ-hospital-black-lives-matter-st-0607-20200605-p7yjd3fs5rfydjss3dogbaqzui-story.html.

2. Miguel, Marie. “What Is Collective Guilt?” Good Men Project, September 26, 2019. https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/what-is-collective-guilt-bh/.

3. The Daily Wire. “America’s about to Be Mugged by Reality | The Ben Shapiro Show Ep. 1026.” YouTube video, 1:02:04, June 8, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muG9bkUoSQY&t=940s.

4. “Os Guinness: ‘The Roots of the Present Crisis.’” Truth, Love, Together Virtual Conference. Colson Center video, 24:08, n.d. Accessed June 9, 2020. https://conference.colsoncenter.org/1776-vs-1789-the-roots-of-the-present-crisis/.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.