Reading Jerry Bridges is invariably good for my soul. He had such a way of reaching deep into the Bible to draw out helpful, heartfelt application. In his book on humility (release posthumously) he offers application that seems particularly appropriate to a time of political turmoil and disunity, and to a time of deep national depravity.
Bridges has just explained that mourning over sin is a display of humility because “We cannot be proud and mourn over sin at the same time. We cannot be judgmental toward other believers, or even toward unbelievers, if we are truly contrite and brokenhearted over our sin.” Then he says this:
The Greek word that Jesus used for mourn is used twice elsewhere for mourning over sin: 1 Corinthians 5:2 and James 4:9. James uses it in the context of our sin, but Paul uses it in the context of tolerating the sin of someone else. I think that in Paul’s use there is a lesson for us to apply in today’s culture.
There is no question that our nation is sinking more deeply into gross sins of violence, immorality, murder (especially of the unborn), flagrant dishonesty, and other kinds of vile sins. What should be our attitude toward these sins? We have three options: condone it, condemn it, or mourn over it. We certainly don’t condone it, but I think most of us merely condemn it.
It is the third option we should pursue, and the attitude of Ezra at the time of the Jews’ return from exile can be an example to us. Ezra was a godly man; he “had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Although a godly man himself, Ezra identified with the sins of the people and mourned over them. When he learned that the returned exiles had again begun to intermarry with the idolatrous people of the land, he tore his garments (a sign of deep mourning), and prayed:
O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. (Ezra 9:6)
Notice how Ezra identifies himself with the sins of the people: our iniquities, our guilt. I believe this is the attitude we should pursue in our day. It is so easy for us to stand apart from the culture and do no more than express self-righteous judgmentalism toward it. But those of us who grieve deeply over our own sin will not do this. Instead we will mourn over the sins and wickedness of our nation and will pray most urgently that, just as we want God to be merciful to us, so we want Him to be merciful to our nation as a whole. This will be another expression of humility in action.
Condone, condemn, or mourn. Which does your nation need most? Which will you do?