If you’ve ever been anywhere near a church, or even seen a stereotypical American evangelical preacher in a movie, you will probably have heard the word ‘repent’. It’s a word that gets a lot of mileage in church circles, especially by anyone involved in evangelism.
In church circles and at evangelistic gatherings, you often hear about the need for people who want to follow God and become a Christian to ‘repent of your sins’, and then believe all the right things so that you can be forgiven and become a Christian.
Now the word ‘repent’ essentially means to turn around and face the opposite way, to live differently to how you were living before. In a Christian context it’s essential meaning is to leave your ‘sinful’ past behind you and live the way of God instead.
So we do this, we receive Jesus’ forgiveness and then suddenly everything is okay.
We feel better about ourselves because we’ve done the right thing, we’re right with God, and all is good in the world.
However, there are dangers inherent here. There is one fundamental question we must ask at this point.
Why are we doing this?
Are we doing this so that God will be pleased, forgive us and bless us?
So that we can make sure we won’t burn in hell for all eternity?
Are we doing this simply because it’s the right, religious thing to do?
Are we simply saying sorry to make ourselves feel better?
Are we saying this so that God will be pleased with us and will keep on blessing us – to somehow avoid something terrible?
This of course leads to the bigger questions – questions that seem to be at the root of all questions when it comes to faith.
How do we see God?
Who is our God?
You see, if we are ‘repenting’ merely to avoid terrible punishment from God, then our view of God is one of a tyrant, dictator God just itching to inflict terror on us.
Which is simply not the God of scripture. Whoever we’re talking about here, it’s not God.
It’s in reality a concept of God which is based in religion, tradition and terror. A God we want to make sure we please just in case something bad happens.
An insurance policy God, who makes sure we don’t go to hell and in return we do the right thing, life the right way, and keep on saying sorry.
Is that really the true God? Not at all.
God is a loving, gracious, forgiving, gentle, just God – a God who doesn’t want us to repent in order to stave off some terror, but because He wants us to be transformed, restored and reconciled to Him. For our own good.
This is the God we should be following and offering repentance to.
Then there’s the other reason for repentance, the religous repentance, the comfort blanket repentance. But if we are repenting merely so we know we’ve done the right religious thing, then we aren’t doing it for God at all, we’re doing it for ourselves.
We’re doing it so we feel better about ourselves, and no other reason.
It’s not out of a desire to change, to turn around and live differently. It’s simply because we want to feel we’ve done the right thing so we go and repent to make sure we do – then almost forgetting it as soon as we’ve done it.
Which brings us to the question of repentance itself.
What is real repentance?
What does it mean, and what is it’s purpose?
This is what we will look at next time…
What is your process of repentance like?
Is it religious repentance?
Is it to make yourself feel better?
Why do you repent?
James Prescott (@JamesPrescott77) is a writer & creative living in Sutton, near London in the UK. He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk on issues concerning social media, gender and the divine journey of life. He is currently working on an e-book exploring the links between the divine & the digital. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77
James Prescott (@JamesPrescott77) is a writer & creative living in Sutton, near London in the UK.
He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk on issues concerning social media, gender and the divine journey of life. He is currently working on an e-book exploring the links between the divine & the digital.
Follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77
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