From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” – Matthew 4:17
Several years ago a dear friend of mine reacted negatively to a “repentance service” at which we were both in attendance. His aggravation was sparked by two things: 1) the fact that no specific sins were identified for which we were repenting; and, 2) and our participation in worship that day obligated (coerced) to offer repentance in order to participate in worship.
I understood his objections even though I didn’t agree with him. But, I had difficulty articulating my disagreement. As I look back at that moment I am grateful. My friend’s reaction created within me a need to think clearly about repentance. What exactly is it? Why is it important? Can a group of people corporately repent for the sins of individuals? Is there a point in repenting if one cannot identify a specific sin one has committed? Much more, is that even possible?
Repentance is at the core of Jesus’ teaching. Matthew 4:17 says, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” These words mark the beginning of his public ministry. He did not just say them once. The Gospels make clear that Jesus began preaching like this. That is, these ideas were central to his overall message of the Kingdom of God.
This leads me to believe that repentance is something Christians should participate in regularly on both the corporate and the individual level. In addition, repentance should be considered not mere acts of contrition or remorse but it should be a way of living. That is, our lives should be marked by a mode of repentance that allows us to be re-oriented to God and one another daily.
What do you think? How do you understand repentance. There will be more to come.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 18:19