What is Repentance?

Repentance has gotten a bad wrap in current American culture. I think that it is because now-a-days, we don’t like to be wrong. Somehow, the phrase, “I’m sorry,” has become like a curse word. It makes us sick to our stomach. This has presented a whole host of problems. It has presented a problem in defining truth as truth has become relative to the person. This is more than just an intellectual problem, but that is not what this post is about. This post is about the more personal problem of an unwillingness to repent, not just to God but also to each other.

I’ve been reading Jeremiah. It has struck me how God was asking His people to repent. He wasn’t asking for perfect obedience. He was asking for a broken heart. He was asking for people to turn to Him. In Jeremiah’s words given to Him, we find that the peoples’ sins have overtaken the sacrifices they had been giving. The sacrifices were nothing more than mere rituals, and God took no pleasure in them. They did not set free a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Sacrifices to atone for sin meant nothing without a heart that was broken over sin.

In healthy relationships, when one person hurts another then that person will admit his or her wrong-doing. The words, “I’m sorry,” are said and they move closer together. In unhealthy relationships, a person holds a grudge. This grudge damages the relationship, but it does something much worse. It doesn’t just damage the victim, the grudge itself damages the injurer’s heart. Over time, that person becomes calloused to his or her actions. Before too long, it is not just one person that is getting hurt, but several. Relational wreckage ensues. Held grudges can absolutely ruin a heart.

Repentance is letting go of a grudge. Grudges can be held by both people who hurt others and by people who are hurting. Repentance is admitting when we have screwed up, and moving toward reconciliation. When the hearts of God’s people became so calloused that they didn’t leave anything but wreckage in their wake, God chose not to hold a grudge. He chose to give His Son for us, so that we may know His love for us.

Are you holding grudges against others? Are you holding a grudge against God? Can you admit when you are wrong? Can you let go and move towards repentance?

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