I told you last week I’d spend a few weeks on prayer. Sorry. I was wrong. I’ll pick up the prayer discussion next week, but this week I wanted to add a bit more to last week’s sermon on repentance.
In the sermon we walked through 2 Corinthians 7, with emphasis on 7:10 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” When we see the pain of this world and, more especially, the pain (i.e. “sin”) that emanates from my own heart, we turn to two different kinds of “grief” : “worldly grief” or “godly grief.”
Worldly Grief can look like godly grief but is characterized by a self-centered point of view as we are more concerned with how getting caught impacts me than the sinful behavior itself. Here are some examples of what Worldy Grief smells like:
- “I’m such a horrible person” – We turn downward in despair and really make it all about ourselves and how wretched we are.
- “I didn’t mean to” – We agree that we did something wrong, but don’t take responsibility for it.
- “I’ll never do it again” – We own the fact that we did it but make it about behavioral management rather than relational breakage. (Yes, true repentance can smell a little like this, but repentance results in changed behavior, it isn’t behavior change in itself.)
- “I’m sorry if you were offended” – This is a classic these days. It can almost look like repentance, until you realize that the wording implies that the problem isn’t in what I did, but in you being so soft and weak that you were offended, which means this is all your fault.
- “What’s my punishment” – So often (if we are really honest) the deepest grief we feel when we do something terrible is the realization that we’ll have to “pay a price” for our behavior. We are devastated that the “bell tolls for me.”
- “Yeah, but you…” – These are the days of gaslighting, and many of us have made it an art. We don’t necessarily disagree that we’ve done something wrong, but IN COMPARISON we aren’t nearly as wrong and bad as you. It’s the jujitsu of repentance.
- “I’m sorry that happened” – I was reminded of this one after my sermon. It happened after a hockey game where one player severely (and intentionally) injured another player. When asked for a response, he was “truly sad that something like this happened” while taking no responsibility whatsoever that it was HIM that caused the injury.
One thing I didn’t really get to in the sermon is WHY we are so bad at repenting, and was quickly reminded. On Monday an article popped up on my regular news feed titled “Why Is It So Hard to Apologize?”
Though not from a faith-based perspective it gives some good insight into our hearts of unrepentance. The one I want to focus on, and offer some healing from, is this:
There it is. The biggest barrier to repentance is our arrogance and insecurity. In order to repent we have to admit and own our deep flaw, making ourselves vulnerable in the worst way possible. We spend our whole lives trying to convince others (and ourselves, and God) that we are ok, valuable, worthy. To repent is to come to the end of our self-made righteousness. It is a true and deep death. And it’s exactly where we MUST be in order to have empty hands that can receive the gift of Christ’s Righteousness.
As long as my fingers are clutched around the idol of my self righteousness there is no room for the righteousness of Christ. But this idol is a facade at best and a disease at worst. Not only is it a figment of our imagination, but we are actually clutching a poisonous beast that aims to destroy us.
But Jesus invites us to let go as he clutches us in his own hands. He invites us to a godly grief where we own what our sin really is: spiritual and lethal adultery against our holy Groom. And this grief brings us not to denial but repentance, which opens the gateway for the perfect Righteousness of Jesus to be poured out on us because our lethal poisonous beast was unleashed upon Him on the Cross.
When I get tiny glimpses that even my repentance needs to be repented of, I can turn to Jesus and realize that my worth, value, hope, identity and very being isn’t based upon what I do and don’t do, but upon Him and My Adoption into His Family, which makes repentance not just possible, but a joy that brings freedom.