Repentance to Life
Repentance to Life.
Repentance is a crucial theme for Lent and something that has been on my mind. When I think of repentance, I immediately think of gaining the courage to say "I'm sorry" for what I've done wrong- what we have been taught to do since we were toddlers. But, like most things in life, I find myself asking WHY. Why do we focus on repentance as Christians? Here are two passages that have struck me in the midst of my reflection:
"If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God's message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God's forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved...Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God's grace have spoken of repentance; indeed the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of My people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to Me with your whole heart and say, “Father”, and I will listen to you as to a holy people." -Saint Clement
This letter shows what God spoke through Ezekiel to the Israelites:
You people say, 'Our Crimes and our sins weigh us down; we are rotting away because of them. How can we survive?' Answer them: As I live- oracle of the Lord GOD- I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways AND LIVE. Turn, turn from your evil ways! Why should you die, house of Isreal? -Ez. 33:10-11
These passages convicted me about WHY we repent. God made it very clear that repentance is about receiving life, it's about living! In the moment, asking for forgiveness often feels like trying to prevent being grounded (at least it did for me!), causing conflict, or just trying to be good person. But none of these reasons are the starting point. The starting point is knowing God wants more for us. God doesn't correct the Israelites just so they are obedient. He said, Turn back and live! He corrects them as a way to get them "back on track" to what is truly life giving and fulfilling. God sees them settling for way less than what He wants to offer.
I find it much more appealing to consider repentance when it is about receiving God's love, gifts, and life. Our role of acknowledging and repenting our sins is simply the action required when we come to believe in the life God wants to offer us. It is us choosing that life.
I know this is easier said than done. My own experience is that it takes a lot of courage to repent, especially with serious sin. This is because Satan wants to keep our sin in the dark and to keep us as captives. But, my sisters, let us have courage to run to the light which is an image of God's love, life and power! Perhaps this is why the Gospel of John begins right away by testifying to the victory of the God's light,
What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.