Jamie Dean: Generational repentance

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, December 19th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.  WORLD National Editor Jamie Dean now on the need to lament over a troublesome legacy with eyes still on Jesus.

JAMIE DEAN, NATIONAL EDITOR: Yesterday you heard Leigh Jones report on the racial reckoning at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Among other things, the school publicly acknowledged its four founders together held more than 50 slaves.

That’s just one of the many grievous facts recounted in the 71-page report. Seminary president Al Mohler—a WORLD board member—summarized some of the findings in a letter.

Quoting now: “Many of their [the founders] successors on this faculty, throughout the period of Reconstruction and well into the twentieth century, advocated segregation, the inferiority of African-Americans, and openly embraced the ideology of the Lost Cause of southern slavery.” End quote.

Mohler also described part of the purpose for the report—quote—“We must repent of our own sins, we cannot repent for the dead. We must, however, offer full lament for a legacy we inherit, and a story that is now ours.”

Mohler expressed his hope in Christ, who is creating a new humanity by His death and resurrection. Reading his lament brought to my mind the suffering and abuse that Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, also endured in this world in making that redemption possible.

One of my favorite songs at Christmas is a beautiful meditation on that reality of the incarnation. Sweet Little Jesus Boy was actually penned in 1934 by a white man named Robert MacGimsey. But it evokes the sound of an African-American spiritual.

MacGimsey had grown up on a plantation in Louisiana. There his parents employed many African-Americans. And MacGimsey’s nanny sang spirituals to him when he was a baby. He went to church with African-American men he considered “uncles.” MacGimsey loved the church’s music, and he began a lifelong project of transcribing and trying to preserve spirituals from the South.

He wrote Sweet Little Jesus Boy in that style:

The world treat You mean, Lord;
treat me mean, too.
But that’s how things is down here,
we didn’t know t’was You.

MacGimsey once said when he contemplated this song, he pictured an aging black man whose life had been full of injustice “standing off in the middle of a field just giving his heart to Jesus in the stillness.”

In a world still full of sorrows and sin, it’s a helpful Christmas hymn to lament our own suffering, the suffering of others, and to rejoice in the beauty of the Christ who came into the world to bear our griefs.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Jamie Dean.

(Photo/Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

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