I have been pondering the importance of the Biblical practice of repentance over the past week or so. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand" was the first message from Jesus. Repent and be baptized all of you was the end of the first Christian Sermon (see Acts 2). In our permissive and tolerant society (not all bad, by the way) we have lost sight of the critical spiritual practice of repentance.
Repentance assumes that we have done something wrong. Is it too much to say that there are some things about which we should be ashamed? Is it too much to say that all of us have done things we should not have done and have avoided doing things we should do? Often the result of doing or not doing is guilt, remorse, sorrow. This guilt, remorse or sorrow needs to be dealt with and the spiritual cure is repentance.
Repentance begins by admitting the sin (mistake, error, whatever). The second step of repentance is to choose to turn away from the behavior. I have been in weight watchers for the past 17 months (and have lost nearly 90 pounds) and periodically I have to turn away from old behaviors (the ones that helped me get fat). I have to admit that it is not good for me, it is not right for me and I have to turn away from it. The third step of repentance is to turn toward the better option. Spiritually, this means to turn away from sin and turn toward God.
I am struck with the need for individuals, small groups, ministry teams, churches, denominations and entire peoples periodically need to work through times of repentance. We forget who we are, we forget what we are called to do and we forget where we are going. Repentance is a way God has provided for us to come back to who we are supposed to be.
I invite you, all of you, to make space to admit, turn away, turn toward and begin anew.