It’s important that I say something about the notion of repentance, and in particular whether it is biblical or even possible to repent for the sins and iniquities of others. Continue reading . . .
It’s important that I say something about the notion of repentance, and in particular whether it is biblical or even possible to repent for the sins and iniquities of others. This latter notion has been variously called “representative” repentance or “identificational” repentance. The idea is that one can/should identify with the sins of others (in particular, one’s ancestors) and repent for their transgressions in a representative manner.
Repentance, by definition, is the acknowledgement (which typically entails deep sorrow and contrition), confession of, and turning from the sins that one has committed, both in terms of what one believes and how one behaves. That being the case, it is impossible that I can repent for sins I haven’t committed.
However, that isn’t to say that the sins of others, whether those of our ancestors or our contemporaries, are irrelevant to us. So how do we respond to the sins of others? What is our responsibility?
First, we should acknowledge and confess such sins. We should acknowledge that our ancestors or our contemporaries with whom we are in some manner connected or related, have transgressed the law of God. Perhaps the most explicit example of this in the Bible is found in Nehemiah. There Nehemiah says:
“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sin