The Posture of Repentance
Repentance is an important part of the Christian faith. Repentance doesn’t mean just confessing our sin, nor does it mean living in a constant state of guilt. Repentance means being honest about our sin, confessing it, and with the help of the Holy Spirit moving toward something better. Opening ourselves to repentance means taking some postures we don’t usually assume. As we enter Lent–a season of reflection–here are three words to help posture us in a way that makes repentance possible.
None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. -Jeremiah 8:6
A horse charging into battle is a good picture for our lives most of the time. We have our course set–whether it is with our career, our family, our recreation, or even our pursuit of faith–and we charge ahead as fast as we are able. But when we’re moving so quickly it is nearly impossible to change course. Repentance is a change of course. If we are going to posture ourselves for repentance we have to slow down, even stop, so we can feel the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit. We have to take a pace that allows us to observe our reality, not see it in a blur.
They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. -Jeremiah 5:3
Ever known someone who had an opinion that was “set in stone”? Whether it’s politics, theology, or anything else, you know that trying to reason with someone in this state is pointless. They are not open to changing their opinion and trying to have a conversation about it usually results in frustration or anger–for everyone involved. Taking on a posture of repentance requires a heart and mind that are soft–open to the conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit. When our first response to the Spirit’s conviction is defensiveness we need to pray for softening and seek that posture before repentance can continue.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it–I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while–yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance…Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret. -2 Corinthians 7:8-10
When my 5-year-old daughter, Ayla, does something to hurt someone she often gets a look of horror on her face, runs to a corner to curl up, and begins to sob. My first reaction to her reaction is to go and try to comfort her, or tell her that whatever happened her reaction is overkill and unnecessary. I’m learning that I am not helping in my attempts to immediately alleviate her sorrow. That sorrow is a sign of her sincere regret over what happened. She rebuffs my attempts at consolation because she needs time to sit in her sorrow. Her sincere regret, expressed through her sorrow, leads to repentance.
We have an aversion to sorrow in our culture. And it’s important to note that Paul didn’t say godly guilt leads to repentance. Just because we’re uncomfortable with sorrow doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Sorrow is a necessary part of the posture of true repentance.
So as you engage repentance during Lent, let it be slow, soft, and sorrowful.