For the Sins of Our Fathers

Can  we apologize for the sins of our grandfathers and grandmothers? Should we?

The answers to both questions was “yes” at a lawyers conference in Berlin this fall.

Brent McBurney, president and CEO of Advocates International, reports the amazing work that God did during the gathering of Christian lawyers from across Europe. The conference, “50 Nations – 1 Fellowship,”  co-led this year by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (UK) and Christ und Jurist (Germany), was attended by over 200 lawyers, judges and law students from across Europe.

As Brent tells it in his November newsletter, the first day of the conference was devoted to prayer. On the second day, the keynote speaker, Judge Peter Gegenwart, admitted to the audience that his grandfather was a judge during the Nazi regime, and Peter asked for forgiveness, on behalf of himself, his family, and his nation. In response, Teresa Conradie, of South Africa, came to the podium to offer forgiveness on behalf of her own family and nation. Her grandfather had died during World War II fighting against the Nazis in Europe. Brent reports that there was not a dry eye in the room.

I admit that I’m a little skeptical of apologies and forgiveness on behalf of ancestors. I haven’t quite worked out the theology of that. But it sounds like the Spirit of God was definitely present among these Christian lawyers, enabling them to experience a new level of reconciliation. This has opened my eyes to the possible benefit of seeking and extending forgiveness for sins for which we are not personally responsible.

On Friday afternoon of the Christian lawyers’ conference, the group visited the Sachsenhausen Labor Camp, where Judge Gegenwart prayed a Prayer of Repentance, a way of trying to make amends for the sins of our fathers.  

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