What About Repentance?

Repentance

It is near­ly impos­si­ble to lis­ten to the dai­ly news with­out hear­ing about anoth­er shoot­ing, ter­ror­ist attack, riot or oth­er civil upheaval.  Those pro­mot­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the­se activ­i­ties feel com­plete­ly jus­ti­fied in their actions.  Are they?

Is it ok to protest and let your voice be heard?  Sure and it is even a good thing.  How­ev­er, when that protest turns vio­lent it tran­si­tions into a riot and that is com­plete­ly wrong on many lev­els.  It is wrong to attack police.  It is wrong to attack inno­cent peo­ple.  It is wrong to burn busi­ness­es and destroy the econ­o­my of a city.

How can the­se actions be jus­ti­fied?  How can there be rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and heal­ing after the­se events?

The answer can be found in an old term that doesn’t get much use the­se days.  Yes, the word is Repen­tance.

This term is pri­mar­i­ly reserved for reli­gious cir­cles in our cul­ture.  The Bible is clear that repen­tance is need­ed to make peace with God.

What would hap­pen if the term repen­tance was under­stood and used through­out our soci­ety?  It would be a shock to anyone’s ears to have the main­stream media call for repen­tance.  How­ev­er, if they did, it may ush­er in a new sea­son of heal­ing and restora­tion.  Think how pow­er­ful it would be if those doing wrong would repent!

What would hap­pen if this term was com­mon­place in schools?  What would hap­pen if the drug deal­ers, gangs and bul­lies at school repent­ed?  We could see a decrease in school shoot­ings, sui­cide and drug use.

What would hap­pen if repen­tance was prac­ticed in fam­i­lies?  Would there be less divorce?  Would there be heal­ing and restora­tion?  Yes, the effects of repen­tance would be pro­found in fam­i­ly set­tings.

There are three crit­i­cal aspects of repen­tance that we must under­stand.

First, it is impos­si­ble to repent if you don’t acknowl­edge your sins.  In oth­er words, we need to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for our actions by admit­ting to them and that they were wrong.   Con­fes­sion is the pri­ma­ry bib­li­cal way to acknowl­edge sin or wrong­do­ing.

Too many times we try to Jus­ti­fy, ratio­nal­ize, blame or explain away our sins rather than take respon­si­bil­i­ty for them. 

If there is no acknowl­edge­ment of sin or wrong­do­ing there is no true repen­tance.  If there is no true repen­tance there can be no heal­ing and restora­tion.  Sure, some may fake it, but under­neath there will always be dis­trust and unre­solved issues.

Sec­ond, repen­tance is a heart issue.  Scrip­ture says, out of the abun­dance of the heart a man speaks.  If we are unwill­ing to repent there is a heart prob­lem.

The Greek word used in Luke 3 for repen­tance is “metanoia” and it means a change of mind or rever­sal of a pre­vi­ous deci­sion.   Repen­tance is a com­plete change of heart.  It involves the mind, the emo­tions and the will.  When we repent there is an intel­lec­tu­al under­stand­ing of our wrong actions.  There is an emo­tion­al respon­se of remorse, guilt and sor­row.  There is a choice and action that must come from the will.  What we must under­stand is that repen­tance is a heart­felt, thought out, deci­sion to change direc­tions because we were wrong

Repen­tance means to turn away from and to turn to.  When we want to find peace with God we must turn from our sins and turn to the Lord Jesus.  When we want to be right with each oth­er we must turn away from the things that dam­age rela­tion­ships and turn to the things which build rela­tion­ships.

Third, real repen­tance has fruit.  When we repent of our sins and turn to the Lord Jesus there is a change in behav­ior and lifestyle.  If there is no out­ward evi­dence of repen­tance it is doubt­ful that sal­va­tion has occurred.  God desires a rela­tion­ship not a 5 min­ute prayer that we don’t real­ly mean.

If we have done things to hurt oth­ers we need to repent before there can be heal­ing and restora­tion.  Yes, this includes acknowl­edg­ing our wrongs, but it also includes a change in behav­ior.  Expect­ing restora­tion with some­one while attack­ing,  encour­ag­ing or allow­ing harm to anoth­er is an unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tion.

Remem­ber, for­give­ness does not always lead to restora­tion.  It is pos­si­ble to for­give with­out will­ing­ly enter­ing back into a sit­u­a­tion where there will be ongo­ing harm.

What would our cul­ture, our schools, our work­places and fam­i­lies be like if there were true repen­tance?

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