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Looking back at church history, the Universal Church has failed miserably at keeping Christ’s command when it comes to all Christians.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV2016)

Jesus’ statements are clear unless one seeks to put a limit to God’s love as the lawyer responding to Jesus:

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29, 2016)

To which Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, from a group the lawyer hated, and concluded:

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36–37, ESV2016)

In case that isn’t enough, Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,… (Matt. 5:43–44, ESV2016)

We as Christians need to repent for how we have treated one another and how we have treated non-Christians, especially about our past history where Christians have gone as far as burning people at the stake for disagreeing with our particular beliefs. While this extreme isn't present today, still the lack of love often is present today. This is a stark contradiction to the New Testament. How will people know that we follow Christ if we do not love one another?

While we as individuals are not responsible for the sins before we were born, should we not be clear to all people that we acknowledge as abhorrible those sins of the past done as a group under the same name we are under today? Those sins were stopped by government mandate rather than repentance. Some forms of fascism would like to bring some of these sins back.

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  • Title says "should"; body says "need". What is your actual question?
    – eques
    Commented Apr 16 at 1:40
  • Yes, what is the question? Are you asking whether Christians should repent of other people's sins?
    – Mary
    Commented Apr 16 at 3:35
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    Matthew 7:3-5 Concern yourself with your own sins.
    – Mary
    Commented Apr 16 at 12:18
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    As you can probably tell from the answers, this is an opinion based question. Very good question for discussion, but not for the Q&A on the site.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Apr 16 at 16:49
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    The early Plymouth Brethren movement gathered (in the early 1800s) on a similar basis and had meetings which were genuinely penitent in regard to the state of Christianity and their own part in it. I suggest that each generation, in turn, needs to do the same since every generation (of the Church) is apt to suffer decline. Up-voted +1, but, as the Moderator indicates, the issue is not suitable for this particular Q&A site.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 19 at 7:15

5 Answers 5

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To repent is to change one's mind not merely just feel sorry. It is to turn and head in a completely different direction. You repent of one thing and believe in it's replacement.

Owning another human being as property is wrong and I will say so and act accordingly, but I need not repent of slavery, as I have never participated nor approved.

In a similar manner I can look at loveless Christianity and atrocities committed in the name of Christ and declare the wrongness without needing to repent. The danger, however, is failing to recognize that when pointing a finger there are three fingers pointing back at me.

Humility knows that love is not yet perfected: This is the arena of personal repentance.

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No Christian today is guilty of, or responsible for, the sins of those who have gone before us. I don’t need to “repent” of anything done by the church throughout history. It is my duty in the here and now to do as Christ commanded, even if they did not.

I do agree, however, that the behavior of the past is most definitely a blight on the faith that has created a rift between Christians and secular folks. I would be willing to say that rather than repent for the actions of the past, it might be more appropriate to say that we need to make amends to restore the reputation of the faith to those outside of it.

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Intercessory Repentance

This idea of intercessory repentance on behalf of sinners sounds similar to the general intercessory prayers, though it is Biblical, and it aligns with the religious tradition found among Jews. Such as intercessory/proxy baptism for the dead (Cor 15:29). Also compare Islamic and Church tradition of prayers, almsgiving, pilgrimage; Mass Intentions, Indulgence for someone else, which are likely influenced by Jewish beliefs; the substitutionary charity comes from the same principle of atonement through righteousness or the sacrificial system.

There are churches that have been intercessory prayer/repenting for the historical antisemitism by the Church tradition. Michael Brown's book "Our Hands are Stained with Blood" is about the repentance from the collective Church guilt of antisemitic sins. I suppose he writes and quotes passages in this book like the Isaiah 64:6 "All of us have become unclean, and all of our righteous deeds are like filthy rags We all become withered like leaves, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.", where the righteous prophets puts himself among the sinful nation (we not they), and intercedes for the nation with repentance.

There are few results on duckduckgo on the Intercessory Repentance. Some ministries teach this, basically, it's the same as intercessory prayer for revival and repentance, it does not undermine the sinner's responsibility.

For a number of years this ministry has been practicing what we have termed "intercessory repentance." We have encouraged those to whom we minister to practice it as well. Simply defined, intercessory repentance [IR] is the practice of interceding for those who are bound by sin by repenting on their behalf through confessing their sins to God until they are brought to repentance. It consists of a heartfelt sorrow concerning other's sins against God and the desire for them to turn away from their sin and submit themselves to God. We do not in any way seek to undermine the responsibility of the individual to be accountable for their sins.

Often we are not able to talk with those who are involved in sin because they are very defensive, hostile or self-righteous about their behavior. IR provides a powerful way of ministering those who cannot be reached in any other way. It avoids confrontation on a human level, but is a very powerful way to confront the enemy on a spiritual level.

This intercessory spirit or practice depends on personal conviction or preferences. Some may choose to condemn the sinful nations or churches, praying for God's wrath on them, and they may not be wrong; while some maybe lead to intercede for repentance. Repealing the sinful no-fault divorce, and irresponsibility in politics or refusing to obey the covenant of God in works are some examples from American topics of the national sin.

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A common mistake here is forgetting the purpose of Christianity. The goal of Christianity is to bring people into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. This is made abundantly clear by Paul

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

It's wholly foreign to Christianity to start a war in its name. In fact, Jesus wasn't cool with that idea either in Matt 26:52

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

A lot of what I see referenced in this regard would be The Crusades, where ostensibly Christian governments invaded other lands. There is no scripture to support such actions. If you look at their aims, you quickly find that they were not really religious in nature, but merely used religion to justify the aims of conquest and exercising governmental power. Take the People's Crusade (an early part of the First Crusade)

In the late spring and summer of 1096, crusaders destroyed most of the Jewish communities along the Rhine in a series of unprecedentedly large pogroms in France and Germany in which thousands of Jews were massacred, driven to suicide, or forced to convert to Christianity.

A lot of this Crusade revolved around people going around and preaching with the aims of raising an army. They succeeded, and these armies did terrible things because nobody really understood what the goals of these armies were, and channeling anger towards a group of people you don't like is an easy way to keep an army angry mob going. Honestly, a lot of this appears to be boiler plate ethnic cleansing that most areas of the world deal with, rather than any attempts to further Christianity as a religion. "Convert or die" is not a Christian doctrine, nor is it supported by the Bible.

While we as individuals are not responsible for the sins before we were born, should we not be clear to all people that we acknowledge as abhorrible those sins of the past done as a group under the same name we are under today?

The problem with a lot of modern philosophy is that this usually goes political. There is an entire industry of "guilt" that has sprung up of late that is long on the historical record of past wrongs (President Obama once pulled this trick in mentioning the Crusades as a rebuke to modern Christians), and short on what they would like done in response. The problem is that when you press them to get to their point, they dance around the political solutions they would love to enact, if only Christians would just "repent" and let them do it.

They key on any repentance is "go and sin no more". Acknowledge old harms. Never forget those sins, lest we repeat them. Christians should, however, beware of "you're still guilty of this", followed with a political pitch.

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  • I don't think we need the politically motivated reparations, just make it clear to people that is not who we are and what we stand for.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Apr 16 at 22:07
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Certainly we do.

Nehemiah confessed the sins of the Jews prior to their captivity in Babylon:

33 Howbeit thou [art] just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: 34 Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. 35 For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.

Neh 9:33-35 KJV

Daniel, in praying for the return from the captivity, did likewise:

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that [is] written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. ... 20 And whiles I [was] speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God;

Dan 9:10-11, 20 KJV

We are all human, with the same nature as those sinners who were before us; we have done, and are tempted to do, the same things they have done, and worse things. To say "I have not done what my ancestors did" is self-righteousness. Christ accused the unbelieving Jews in His day of saying "I would not have committed the sins of my ancestors":

29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. ... 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Mat 23:29-32, 35 KJV

We should not say "I have not committed those sins in the past"; we should instead say "if I had been in the days of my fathers, I would have committed the sins of the majority in that time", and turn away from our sinful natures to follow Christ, instead.

See also Jesus's story of a Pharisee who prayed "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men", Luke 18:9-14; Luke says He told this story to those who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous". Paul says "I know nothing [against] myself, yet I am not hereby justified", I Cor 4:4; we should leave the business of making lists of sins we haven't committed with God. We should keep a careful account of the sins we commit, or might commit, to plead for divine grace to overcome them (Heb 4:16). And, if we see a sin that is prevalent today, or that was prevalent in the past, we should say "my human nature is prone to that sin; by God's grace I will turn away from it, not in self-righteousness, but in self-distrust and reliance on God".

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