Picking back up with the foundational doctrines: Repentance, part 1
So before my nearly three month long and unanticipated hiatus, I was going through the foundational doctrines presented out of Hebrews 6. For a quick review they were 1) “Repentance of acts that lead to death,” 2) “faith in God,” 3) “instruction about cleansing rites” 4) “laying on of hands” 5) “resurrection of the dead” and 6) “eternal judgment”
I had begun with the first one “Repentance of acts that lead to death” by talking first about the second half: sin. We looked at what exactly sin means, and how it results in death, particularly in the context of Genesis 1-3. We did this in two parts (part 1, part 2). Now we’re going to look at the first part of that verse. What does repentance mean?
It seems to little to say that repentance is just being “regretful” about something. There is an element of being sorry, but it’s not just wishing that something hadn’t happened or that you wish you didn’t do something you shouldn’t or wishing you did do something you should. At the point where repentance is needed, and it is certainly needed for everyone, it’s not just enough to acknowledge what is morally right or wrong. You can’t undo the past. You can’t change it. You can’t go back and make it better, or less terrible. The first step in repentance is admitting not only that your action (or inaction) was wrong, but that it happened (or didn’t happen) and you are solely responsible for it. Now there are such things as “corporate sins” where groups of people commit wrongs, but you cannot place blame for your part on something external to you. You and I and everyone must admit that its not our upbringing or society or where we live or our economic situation or the actions of others that determine our action. We did it. We freely chose to do something when we were fully capable of choosing not to do it (or we chose not to do something when we were fully capable of choosing it).* That’s the first bit. We have to admit something is wrong and we are responsible for it.
However, merely admitting guilt isn’t enough. Merely “being sorry” isn’t enough. One has to be willing to do something about it. The verse in Hebrews doesn’t say “being repentant” but “repentance.” It’s action, not just sorrow. Tears are little good in a world that is ripping itself apart. Next time, I’ll talk about what that action really means.
What about you? Do you have a hard time admitting that you are responsible for something, or accepting the blame when things go wrong? I know I do.
* I’ll have to do a post on determinism versus a free will and what that really means and why I hold to it.