Repent

March 22, 2019

The Pastor's Page

“Repent” (Mk 1:15). In the gospel of Mark, Jesus began his preaching with this expectation. It is a shocking opening line. Jesus does not begin with a polite greeting like “my dear friends,” nor does he begin with a blessing like “grace and peace to you,” nor does he begin with a compliment like “noble citizens and good people of this country.” He did not mince words. He was a straight shooter. He struck early with a dagger to the heart. He was brusque and abrasive.

RepentRepent. It was a bold declaration. Jesus was saying to every one of his listeners, “You are a sinner.” It is not the sort of thing that people like to hear. Every person is guilty of evildoing. No exceptions. Each person has freely chosen to disregard God’s commandments, offended God in multiple ways, inflicted harm upon others, been a source of conflict, caused unhappiness, disregarded the standards of right conduct, and done things that are hurtful to self.

Repent. It was more than a statement of fact. It was an order: “Stop it!” “Quit sinning!” Jesus did not make a request. It was a demand. It is obligatory, not optional. Jesus insists on change. Wrongdoing must stop, and it must end abruptly, without a moment’s delay.

If a person wishes to stop sinning, it is necessary to realize that sin is present. Big blatant sins are easy to recognize, but there are many times that we are blind to our sins, minimize them, or fail to consider certain wrongdoing sinful at all. At one time a small sin bothered our conscience, but over time the same sin has been repeated so many times, and it has grown larger bit by bit, and it bothers the conscience less and less, and after a while the sin is overlooked as no big deal. Other times we go easy on ourselves, trying to convince ourselves: “What I did is not so bad,” or “What I did is not nearly as bad as what someone else did.” Another common error is to think that only bad deeds are sinful, while in fact, the failure to do good can also be sinful, and a person’s interior mental world of thoughts, desires, and plans can be wicked and immoral, sinful in themselves, and springboard for sinful deeds.

Two elements of repentance are contrition, sorrow for one’s sins, and a firm purpose of amendment, the intention or resolve to no longer commit those sins. Again, this is not so easy. We might be sorry for the sins, but not disgusted or revolted by them. If fact, we may think, “These sins are part of who I am and what I do; there is something rewarding, fun, or exhilarating about them; and I will probably repeat them again sometime.” True repentance is not only to be sorry for the sin, but to hate the sin, to consider the sin absolutely objectionable, deplorable, and unthinkable, to detest the sin so much that the idea would be swiftly and firmly rejected and the wrongful deed no longer an option.

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