Last week I was telling you about a conversation I had with a friend of mine (Rebellion and Repentance – Part 1). We spoke about rebelling against God through our ingratitude and unwillingness to accept from Him the life and situations He has put us in. We then turned our conversation to repentance.
“What do you think repentance means?” He asked me. I was ready for this one. I had heard it all my adult Christian life. I even knew the Greek word for it. “Metanouia,” I said, “it means changing our mind. It means we realize the error of our ways and decide to change our mind about how we are living and make different decisions.” I felt pretty sure and smug about my answer. “True,” he said, “but that’s not enough.” Well, that wasn’t the response I was expecting, so I asked him to explain. He did.
When we think of repentance, he explained, we think of it in terms of feeling sorry (really, really sorry) and trying harder to do better next time. Repentance has taken on the idea of self-effort to improve ourselves, all the while God is standing with arms crossed and eyebrows furrowed glaring at us to “get on with it.” Or we think of Him like a football coach yelling at us from the sideline to work harder. We’ve turned repentance into penance. It has become a club to beat ourselves with or a work of our own flesh; something to make ourselves feel better about ourselves because “At least I am doing something.”
Then he asked me why I think we “should” repent? Again, I thought I knew, but this time I was a little less smug. “I suppose because we are supposed to, because the Bible tells us to repent whenever we sin.”
He went on. We repent as a love response to God. Repentance flows out of our relationship to Him and our desire to stay connected to Him. Yes, repentance must include a decision on our part to live differently, but it also includes a heart response. Loving God involves our mind, soul and heart – our entire being and if we only think of repentance as an action of the will or mind then we miss a large component of it. Repentance is a response to God’s kindness (Romans 2:4). We rebel. We ask forgiveness. God in His kindness extends forgiveness. We repent, meaning we re-align our heart, mind and will to return that love. It’s the same with my wife. If I do something to hurt her, I change because I don’t want to keep hurting her. My love for her compels me to alter my attitude and actions. In the same way my love for God compels me to change how I live.
So now I had some things to think about. Am I really in rebellion to God because of my ingratitude? And if I am, do I love Him, I mean really love Him enough to change how I am living? Do I love Him enough to repent and not just telling Him I’m sorry and I’ll do better? Do I love Him enough to show Him – not just tell Him? Am I willing to invest my entire being into building this relationship with Him?
I’ll have to remember to avoid this friend of mine next time he wants to get together – my brain hurts.