In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel prays for the people of Israel. It is a prayer of repentance, a prayer of confession, and a prayer for deliverance. This makes sense, given where Daniel is– exiled in Babylon, along with all of Judah. The nation of Israel has fallen far from where it was under David. No longer united as one nation, no longer in the land, and no longer able to worship God in his temple, Israel has all but lost her identity as a people. And so of course Daniel confesses and repents, asks God to deliver.
There is, however, one problem. Daniel didn’t commit any of the sins he confesses. He was taken as a young man from his home, and he was a righteous man. How can Daniel repent of something that he personally did not do?
Daniel can pray this prayer of confession and repentance because he realizes that he is not just an individual, but a member of the community. True, it is individuals who sin, and “the soul who sins shall die,” (Ezekiel 18:20), but the Scripture teaches that we are responsible for one another, and that it is the community which is to hold sinners accountable. When sin breaks out in a nation, it is not only those who sin who are responsible, but all who allowed sin to continue unchecked.
It does no good for Christians in America to cross our arms and say “I told you so,” now that our cultural degeneration has entered free-fall. We may not have engaged in gross immorality or wickedness, but we who worship Christ are those who ought to have prophetically stood against godless culture from the beginning, and we have not. We cannot afford to mock and joke at sin, and to buoy ourselves up on our own moral superiority. Rather, we must go before God in repentance and confession, knowing that “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Our eternal fate is not tied to the city in which we live, but we have been called to work for the good of the city. For us today, this begins with repentance.