We have sinned by participating in acts of violence
Submitted by Rev. Ginna Bairby
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me . . .”
Reflection: Many times, the Prayer of Confession is my favorite part of worship.
Perhaps that sounds crazy. But as Presbyterians, confession should come naturally to us. We’re known for our doctrines of original sin and total depravity.
Original sin speaks to the truth of our participation in structural violence. In our globalized, interconnected world, our smallest actions connect us to people all around the world—the food we eat, the transportation we use, the land on which we live. And in a world plagued by racism, militarism, and materialism, these connections make us complicit in structural violence, whether we want to be or not. Every last one of us: even a newborn baby will be wrapped in a blanket made in a sweatshop.
It’s ok to name it. It’s ok to admit it. In fact, confession and repentance are the only place we can start. God already knows us, inside and out, and has already reached out to us with grace and forgiveness. When we confess our complicity in what we have done and what we have left undone, we open ourselves and our lives to the possibility of change.
Action: Take a few moments today and name out loud to God and yourself some of the ways your life is complicit in structural violence. If you feel comfortable, talk about it with a friend. Feel the grace of God wash over you as you confess your sin and turn in repentance toward new possibilities.
Prayer: God of grace, forgive us for the ways that our lives and lifestyles perpetuate and participate in systemic and structural violence. Help us turn to you and participate in your healing and reconciliation. Amen.
Rev. Ginna Bairby is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Taos, New Mexico. Previously, she served for several years with the PC(USA)’s Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministries and as a Young Adult Volunteer in Lima, Peru. She is a graduate of the College of William Mary and Union Presbyterian Seminary and is the editor of the book Worldchanging 101 by David LaMotte.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are based on the Five Affirmations to Guide the Peacemaking Witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Writers were recruited to help us explore the following affirmations as each week of A Season of Peace unfolds:
- Peacemaking is essential to our faith.
- We have sinned by participating in acts of violence.
- We reclaim the power of nonviolent love.
- We commit to the study and practice of nonviolence.
- We will practice boldly the things that make for peace.
Each author writes Monday–Friday, beginning with the first affirmation and ending with the fifth. The authors represent a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts, and each week presents a new ‘voice’ to walk you through the affirmations. The weekend devotions, written by the editor, also reflect the five affirmations. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 3, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 1.