Why don’t we repent to one another? Why does repentance so challenge our pride even though it is an essential tenet of our faith? Why do we fail to remember, in the face of our shortcomings, that pride comes before the fall?
It is by repentance that we received our prized inheritance that is citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven— not as slaves, but as heirs to the very Kingdom we rebelled against.
It is by repentance that the God who knows us in full— every failure, every evil thought, every moment that we didn’t behave as we ought to— remembers our sin no more, crowing us as righteous in His sight. Adopting us as His own. What a precious gift we receive by repentance!
But repentance is not just for the secret place.
It turns out humility in light of failure is the mending balm for all relationships.
Who better to model it than the Church?
In any discussion about injustice it would be remiss to behave as though any human is capable of accomplishing perfection. Since the beginning of time, at the fall of man, the curse of sin has plagued humanity with the ability to fail, fall short, and miss the mark.
And yet, we have a simple invitation when we fail.
Oh, that pride would die so that the mending balm of repentance can do its work!
What do we fear? What blocks us from owning our part in our mistakes?
Often it is the fear of loss— not of inheritance in Christ, but of status and accolade among man.
But should our fear not be the opposite? What turmoil awaits those who fail to repent!
What does it matter if I gain the whole world if in the process I lose my soul?
We fear the loss of platform and opportunity. We are scared to lose titles and promotions. We’re scared to lose kinship and relationship — though our actions would be the cause.
Instead we bear the weight of secrets. Burdened by loads we were never meant to carry. We minimize what we perpetrate. We demonize those brave enough to call it out. We label it all as offense. We demand grace and forgiveness all in effort to just move on.
Yet, Jesus our wise King, has long given us the balm. It is repentance.
Repentance is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, a turning of direction, and a commitment to change.
The cry from the church-hurt, from the estranged spouse, and from the victim is hardly for their Christ-following aggressor to carry on through life as though they did not exist.
Their cry is for repentance. Their cry is for ownership, and for change! Their cry is for the evidence of one’s relationship with the Holy Spirit to be demonstrated in actions, not just words.
Can you blame those who wonder about the hypocrisy of our house?
What kind of theology is it that allows self-proclaimed followers of Jesus to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when it comes to the writing of a sermon, or the leading of a song from stage, but not to take ownership and repent of one's failure?
Repentance is how we break ties with complicity.
Sometimes, repentance can be justice.
Other times, it’s not!
Oh, that the church would know the difference.
God’s sufficient grace does not mean our actions will go without consequence. We live in a world governed in part by rules and laws. In our repentance, we choose integrity. In our integrity we may lose our positions, or our accolades, or our jobs— but what we gain, UNITY, far outweighs what we may lose because the mission of our lives is people.
Is it true repentance if we’re not willing to lose something, everything, to make our wrong, right?
We must choose to preserve our integrity even if it means we cannot preserve our stature.
Many who’ve been deeply hurt, whether by the church or by peers or by spouse, never received an apology, let alone saw repentance from those who perpetrated the pain.
Often, especially in ministry environments, there’s a tendency to save face and shirk responsibility because of platform or popularity, or familiarity. There’s also a tendency to crown forgiveness as Lord, and neglect the necessity of repentance.
Neither is the way.
Integrity is the way. Jesus, our sinless Savior demonstrated this as He taught us to pray “forgive us our sin” BEFORE He prayed “as we forgive those who sin against us”.
It is a skewed approach to prioritize who a victim forgives, above holding a perpetrator accountable. This approach also fails to see how repentance could be the balm that makes forgiveness more possible.
Every person will answer for their unforgiveness.
But, every person will answer for their failure to repent.
And what about grace?
Grace is not the absence of accountability. If our repentance and confession is true, how could we demand grace be given to us? The very grace we are recipients of is a free gift from God that we did not and could not earn in our own effort— let alone demand. In our shortcomings, Church, let us be rid of demands rooted in pride, and in humility, let us instead ask for mercy.
Mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward an offender when it is within one’s power to punish or harm them. We are not owed the grace of those we hurt, but perhaps, aided by the balm of repentance, we can receive mercy instead of punishment.
To those who don’t believe, our genuine repentance affords us an opportunity to witness. It becomes a tangible demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power to defeat pride and ego for the sake of unity and kinship.
Church, repentance is the balm. Let’s show the world how to use it.