The defining quality of true repentance is the firm will to sin no more; to avoid what we do or don’t do that would impute guilt upon our actions. But the fact is there is no escaping our participation in the collective sins of mankind. Our individual failings can be forgiven and forgotten, but our collective guilt hangs upon us forever.
The guilt of the original fall from God’s grace will always be with us – always need forgiveness. But there are other collective sins. The phrase “guilt by association” comes to mind here. As I grow older I look back over longer andlonger periods of time filled with countless memories. I look at myself and at others around me and I see my failings, my faults, my weaknesses and my lack of love. I see also, in hindsight, my undesired participation (implicit or overt) in the collective guilt of the times. I am a citizen of a country in moral decline. I am a citizen of a country whose politics is often a scandal and which values highly the means of war, violence, and destruction to bring about its own ends. Without knowing one personally this is what a foreigner sees in an American.
Nearly 40 years ago, in my experiences with another culture abroad I learned that Americans were popularly regarded as wealthy, gun-toting, swingers – an image promoted mostly by movies but one which, nonetheless, most Americans did little to dispel. And what about the collective guilt of all of us who are nominally Christians but actually hypocrites? Collective sins strike me as those whose commissions we justify by saying, “Everybody does that,” thus dismissing any fault in our own participation.
Within the family, parents and kids, as they look out through their respective windows to the world, often fall under the collective sin of being moved by pressures to conform to questionable “norms.”. The residual collection of such vast amounts of guilt takes much forgiveness – forgiveness of a kind that can only be covered by Your love for us.