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A Plea for a Return to Biblical Repentance - Pg 2

Life Lessons
“In truth, the mechanics of good apologies aren’t difficult to understand. A bad apology is cagey and ungenerous, an attempt to avoid taking full responsibility. Good apologies are about stepping up. The l2th-century sage Maimonides said that true repentance requires humility, remorse, forbearance, and reparation. Not much has changed since then. Basically, you must take ownership of the offense, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Name what you did, even if it makes you squirm…Acknowledge the impact of what you did. …make reparations…If you said something bone-headed, educate yourself about why your remark was offensive. And for heaven’s sake, never present yourself as the aggrieved party. You are not the hero of this story. That’s why you have to say, ‘I’m sorry that I did something hurtful,’ not ‘Sorry if you were hurt.’ A good apology means laying yourself bare. It means putting yourself in the other person’s position, giving [him] her what [he] she wants and needs. In short, it’s not about you.”[11] This is enormously valuable practical advice. It is what works. And it is spot on — justifying our actions rather than repenting of them turns us into victims rather than offenders and that is delusional thinking.

How are we to obey the command in Luke 3:8 and Acts 26:20 to show/bring forth fruits worthy of repentance without first recognizing the need for this first and most basic requirement? These scriptures seem to say that true repentance is evident and visible, as the person displays a changed heart and an obvious desire to make things right. We must not lose sight of this in our rapidly changing world. We have been given guidelines: there will be fruit — fruit that is consistent with repentance. “Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance” (NET Bible).

“One of two things precedes forgiveness: the transgressor’s expression of remorse or the victim’s embrace of life after damage.”[12] Hax and others maintain that there are two paths after a serious transgression occurs; either the transgressor is seriously remorseful (moral disgust at his own actions), or absence of remorse and justification or playing the victim. Note that in the first scenario, the one damaged is invited to interact by virtue of the repentance of the other. Lives can be rebuilt and trust regained. In the second case the victim has no choice except to embrace life after damage. It is imperative that growth happens or this injury will steal joy, rule the spirit, and possibly devastate the future. God wastes nothing, not even pain, and His brilliant principle of bringing good out of evil will defeat an ugly situation.

Shabby Chic?
There is something beautiful about making amends. One cannot do it alone, and one does not desire justice in order to place blame on others but so that one can make amends. As stated earlier, it is an exchange between two people bound together by a violation. Without repentance, one holds up the reconciliation process; no resolution, no peace. Shabby chic is very popular in decorating, but in relationships and before God, I think not.

The Amish practice forgiveness by welcoming back a straying member, but always after confession. And the Jewish Day of Atonement is central to confession and repentance. Forgiveness implies the other party has already confessed to a sin. Or this is what used to be the case. It is being altered and redefined. But is there any refuge or escape from confession? Would the story of the prodigal son be a part of Scripture had he not repented? (Note that the father did not even allow the son to finish his repentance before he forgave him, so eager he was to forgive. And so should we be eager to forgive and praying constantly toward that end.) The very compassion and mercy which have been extended to us — we must extend to others.

We hear much about closure and how important it is. It is repentance which can bring closure. The word repentance actually means change and it is knowledge of that change of heart which allows friendship to be rekindled. A wife would be considered foolish if she were to forgive her husband of adultery while he was still engaging in it. It is only after the changing of his ways and the seeking of forgiveness that it can even be considered. Until there is repentance, the offense is ongoing.

We are all aware of heroic cases of forgiveness, when, for example, a little child has been murdered and the parent says that he forgives the murderer. It is not my intent to take anything away from these astonishing acts in any way. However, that is not the focus of this inquiry. There are amazing resources available to help one with forgiveness: research councils, organizations devoted to help, a myriad of books and counseling materials. Forgiveness is a blessed action, an awesome and beautiful thing. We are allowed no revenge, no grudges, no bitterness. We shouldn’t even keep a record of the wrongs we suffered. We are not to hold on to hurts and wrongs. In fact, to be governed by the offenses done to one can be the very bait of Satan. I can think of no example, however, when a parent would sit down with the one who murdered their child if the murderer still harbored that intention in his heart.

There are two exceptions in Scripture where repentance is not specifically mentioned. Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” And in Acts 7:60 Stephen asks that those stoning him be forgiven. Neither Jesus nor Stephen were overriding God’s directive to repent and the ones in these passages will have to repent as well. To say that those in question need not repent is unthinkable according to the scriptural prerequisites.

Repentance is Clean-up
We are given the brilliant formula for achieving forgiveness in Matthew 6:12: “Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” And we also know that there is no end to our forgiving when our brother repents with the illustration of the seventy times seven model (Luke 17:4; Matt. 18:21). We know that it was wicked of the servant in Matthew 18:28-33 not to forgive when he was asked. But Biblically forgiveness always implies repentance. “If another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). To think that one is being generous or loving by ignoring repentance would be like building on top of the devastation after a tornado, without clean-up. Repentance is clean-up.

As in nature, soil must be broken before it can produce a crop; grapes must be crushed before they can produce wine; clouds must burst before rain can come — so there are conditions which must be met when harm has been done. We must allow the LORD to define those terms.

One of the most effective prayers we can pray is to ask our Father to show us our sins, in order that we might repent of them. As with beautiful music, our ears require it to end on the right note; so too with conflict and peace. So too, our God has a requirement: “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my LORD would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18).

When we follow the Biblical model and petition the throne room of heaven, we are assured of forgiveness. How totally remarkable that God forgives, and even forgets our sins, that what He remembers is the blood of His Son which enabled us to be forgiven.[13] May our walk honor the One who made this possible and the Son who sacrificed his life so that we could be forgiven.

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11 Ibid.
12 Carolyn Hax, columnist, Washington Post.
13 Janie B. Cheaney, “Into the Depths of the Sea,” World, Apr. 7, 2012.

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