In the Bible, during times of mourning and grief, it is said that people would tear their clothes, dress in sackcloth, and cover themselves in ash as a sign of the intense sorrow they felt inside. At times this sorrow would be brought on by great tragedy or loss such as when news came concerning a natural disaster or the death of a loved one. Other times this sorrow was born out of the conviction of one’s own sin and failure before God and others. One’s debasement physically gave proof to their words of repentance and remorse.
Perhaps this is a practice that we ought to employ here in America. Maybe we would all benefit from a season of prayer and fasting while sitting in sackcloth and ashes. We need to pull down this false idol of “America the Great”. How about instead of American exceptionalism, we recognize American sinfulness. Blood has been spilled and is being spilled in this land. This and many other reasons are cause for national lament.
Before we start playing the “what about” game, yes, every other nation has spilt blood too. Every nation on earth has been touched by violence and evil, and yes, they ought to repent too. Yet, I do not live there. God has placed me here, and while I prefer here to there because it is what I know, I cannot turn a blind eye to the truth that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This all includes America. It includes me. It includes our systems of governance built by sinful men and maintained by sinful men and women.
Maybe National Repentance Day will never be as popular as Independence Day, and maybe sitting in sackcloth and ashes will never make a come back. However, I hope and pray that we as a people will learn to see ourselves with open and honest eyes and ears: the good and the bad, the beauty and the ugly truths, the blessings from God and reasons for repentance. As far as I can see, it is our only hope.