Corporate Sin

“If the entire Israelite community sins by violating one of the LORD’s commands, but the people don’t realize it, they are still guilty.” – Leviticus 4:13

 Before I went to seminary, I had never heard of corporate sin, or at least I had never heard it named that way before.  Of course, I was aware of pollution, racism, and the like, but I had thought of these social issues as individual problems – a bunch of individuals acting sinfully, not as a community sinning in one accord.  Then I was challenged to read an Emilie M. Townes book on womanism.  Womanism is the feminism of African-Americans who carry the weight of both gender and racial injustice.  And I was amazed and convicted by what I read.  I learned that there are both systems we establish and support and cultural rhythms that we practice as a community that are sinful.  I learned that when we concede to a cultural habit or system that perpetuates a sin, we are corporately sinning.  And when we sin corporately, we are called to repent corporately.  We are called to act as a community in naming the sin, in changing our habits so that we no longer sin, and in helping to change the structures and the culture that perpetuates sin.  In some ways, we as a church are already responding to corporate sin in our mission and service outreach activities.  But our response doesn’t need to stop there.  There are a lot of ways that we sin corporately. The challenge for us as a Christian community is to invite God to both make us aware of these sins and to give us the courage to repent. We are also challenged to remember that God’s grace is present in every circumstance and nothing takes place that is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming grace. 

Almighty and Powerful God, Help us to see our corporate sin and give us the courage to band together in seeking forgiveness, changing our behavior, and calling others to repentance as well. Remind us that even though we have fallen short, your grace is sufficient and your love overflows both in our lives and those harmed by our sin. Amen.

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