Repentance has kind of gotten a bad rap. It is often seen as this terrible activity where we admit we were wrong and confess we have failed. If that’s all it is, then it makes sense that most of us avoid it. Who wants to admit they are wrong?
So lately I’ve been trying to think a bit differently about repentance. I’m trying to see it as my declaration that I’m human. I’m trying to see it as my invitation to receive God’s grace.
So what is repentance?
Repentance is essentially our humble declaration that we are sinful and God is not – that we are wrong and God is right – that we need help and God is our great helper.
In Romans 12:1 Paul challenges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This challenge helps us to see that repentance begins in the mind when we admit that what we have been thinking, saying and doing is inexcusable and we need to stop fighting God. When we admit these things, God begins the miraculous work of aligning our wills with his.
Repentance moves from our minds to our lips. When we admit that we are wrong we need to confess our sin to God and to the people we sinned against. Confessing our sins to God demonstrates that we understand sin hurts him. Confessing our sin to the people we sinned against demonstrates that we understand our sin has hurt them. While this step of repentance is hard and requires great humility, it is essential in bringing reconciliation with God and with people.
Repentance is such a great gift because it leads to transformation. Repentance changes our hearts. A changed heart leads to changed behaviors. Changed behaviors lead to a changed life. A changed life leads to a changed legacy where generations to come are blessed because we repented of sin.
So lately I have been trying to rethink repentance. It isn’t a bad thing. It is one of God’s great gifts. It is my opportunity to be vulnerable with others about my shortcoming and failures. And vulnerability doesn’t distance me from the people I love, it draws them close. It allows them to know me as I really am, not as I would like to be. And it provides an opportunity for connection, because when I am transparent about my flaws, it gives people permission to be transparent too.
So repentance isn’t a bad thing. It is a gift. It is an invitation to receive grace and mercy. It is a chance to change. So I am trying to see repentance as a good thing. As something I want to do. Not something I have to do.