Tag Archives: Repent

Repent

March 22, 2019

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“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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Repent!

January 17, 2017

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SermonOnTheMountWhat a way to begin a speech!

Jesus is not your average public speaker.  Most acclaimed orators at a major convention begin their presentation with a series of polite opening remarks.  It is customary to honor visiting dignitaries, welcome the crowd, and offer glowing compliments about the organization or the host city, all to win the attention and approval of the audience.

Jesus could have begun, “Most reverend rabbis” or “Good people of Capernaum.”  He might have said something like, “How wonderful that we have gathered together here on this gorgeous day along the scenic shores of the Sea of Galilee.”  Jesus would have no idle chatter.  He cut straight to the chase.  The first word of his preaching was, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), a brave and bold command.  What a first impression!  It might not have won the crowd’s approval, but they perked up and took notice.

Jesus was never one for being politically correct.  He was no reed swaying in the wind.  He was a prophet, the Prophet, and he embodied the truth.  A prophet can see laxity, corruption, unfaithfulness, and evildoing, and refuses to look the other way.  There is no wiggle room when it comes to the truth, goodness, and holiness.  The bar must never be lowered.  The people and their leaders had strayed.  Their plight was dismal.  Their situation was urgent.  A prophet does not mince words.  Jesus did not want the people to like him.  He wanted to save them.  Out of deep love and sincere concern for their spiritual welfare, his first word was audacious and unapologetic:  “Repent.”

Repent is not a polite, soft invitation.  It is judgmental, challenging, and confrontational.  It says, “You are in a bad place” and “You are headed in the wrong direction.”  It is a reprimand, a scolding.  It is the sort of comment that would raise the ire of his listeners.  They would have likely retorted, “Get lost!”  “Mind your own business!”  Jesus was not about to leave, and their wellbeing was his first order of business.

Jesus knew that his listeners, all sinners, would be offended.  That is why he would later say, “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (Mt 11:6).  His listeners would need to get past their initial anger, denial, defensiveness, and stubbornness.  An honest self-appraisal would reveal that Jesus was right, that sin was present, and that change was desperately needed, but change does not come easily.  Sinners regularly prefer self-destructive sinful behavior to healthy, wholesome behavior.  Jesus’ call to repent is a call to change.

Spiritual directors and counselors have a saying, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”  If we keep doing the same old things the same old ways, we will get the same old results.  Each person is a sinner, both those in Jesus’ original audience and each of us today.  If we are sinners, something has to change.  We must repent or our sins will persist.  Without change, there can be no increase in righteousness or growth in holiness.

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