Repentance: An Outdated Word?

Everyone wants to hear that they are good and that their decisions are correct. But guilt and misconduct cannot simply be discussed away; they strain the relationship and the conscience until the guilt is finally forgiven.

“But please, you must admit that some of the words Christians use are entirely outdated. Like ‘repentance’. It’s a medieval concept with no relevance for us in this millennium.”

“Really? What do you understand repentance to mean?”

“Well, now that you’re putting me on the spot, I guess I can’t define it precisely. But more or less, though, I think it leads to you spiraling deeper and deeper into guilt until you feel insignificant and dirty. Yes, repentance means intentionally cultivating an inferiority complex.”

“You have no idea what repentance means! It’s the same old story: You reject Christianity because you don’t understand it. You’re rejecting a great gift.”

“What are you talking about? There’s no way repentance could possibly be a gift.”

“But it is. Without the living God helping us repent through His mercy, we would never arrive at the truth.”

“Truth? If anything, repentance is hypocritical.”

“Quite to the contrary, repentance means leaving lies and hypocrisy behind and entering into the truth.”

“Now I’m really confused. You’re turning everything upside down.”

“No, I’m turning everything you turned upside down right-side up.”

“Whatever. Just explain to me how you define repentance.”

“The Bible’s explanation of repentance—not mine—is that repentance starts with God speaking to someone’s conscience through the Holy Spirit and saying, ‘Something is not right in your life. The way you are right now, you are lost.’”

“To be honest, I have occasionally had thoughts like that.”

“There you go. But now comes the second step: that we consciously and clearly accept God’s judgment without any excuses. That is how we get to the truth.”

“That makes sense.”

“Then comes the third step: confessing our sins—first by prayer to God and then, if necessary, directly to other people as well.”

“That would be the hardest part.”

“Yes, and the most rewarding! It is so freeing to finally clear the air! But we can only succeed in this third step if we know about the fourth one: faith. This means believing with all our hearts that Jesus died for our sins and that His blood makes us clean of all sin so that we can be reconciled with God and become His children.”

“I’ve never thought of it that way. It really does have nothing to do with an inferiority complex.”

“That’s what I was trying to say. Repentance is a gift from God that cleanses us and brings us joy. But there is little point in just knowing this. What matters is hearing and obeying when Jesus calls, ‘Repent!’ That is the key to gaining entry into the kingdom of Heaven, even while we’re still here on Earth.”                 

Wilhelm Busch

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