Thursday, 5 March 2009

Godly repentance

Here's a great article in the Telegraph from Christopher Howse on the theme (though he doesn't use the word) of repentance; witty as well as insightful.

Howse, not a Christian to my knowledge (though I don't know much of him), nails the aspects of true repentance:
  • You state clearly what the crime is (not just, "Err, well, I made mistakes, though can't actually name any of them in particular...")
  • You state clearly, without hedging or excuse-making, your personal accountability for it, and your regret over that (not just, "well, it's a sorry situation, which I regret...")
  • You ask for forgiveness from those you've wronged (recognising that you are now their debtor - not giving them the impression that you've condescended quite far enough from your lofty perch just by achieving the two points above!)
  • Then, you face the consequences (resigning, repaying, whatever). Here's the proof in the pudding (see 2 Corinthians 7).
Why is this so hard? Because we're sinners. I catch myself at it all the time... apologies are loaded with "probably", "but", "though at the time, it was tricky because...", blah blah blah. It's a truly pathetic sight to witness someone who's lived for 30, 40 or 50 years unable to say such simple words as "I was wrong; I am sorry - please forgive me". But then, when it's my turn, out come the weasel words, if I manage to get that far at all.

But in fact, godly repentance is wonderfully refreshing. The offence of some wrongdoing is like a bad smell that lingers. It's there, people know it, it needs to be dealt with. Godly repentance is the thing that actually deals with it, instead of shoving its foul odour under the carpet, from where it will eventually seep through in an even worse way. With godly repentance, the past becomes the past and the future is a new start. Truly God's way is much higher and better than man's.

Now, there's nothing uniquely Christian as such in the above; whatever stripe you are, you can agree. The point, though, is that Christianity actually provides a real basis for giving and receiving genuine apologies - and the spiritual resources to do it. Our offences against God are huge, infinite - yet God forgave us freely and paid the price himself. Christ has washed away all his peoples' sins freely, and given them his Spirit. If we know the enormity of what God's forgiven us, then can we still rage and boil inside and say "No, I won't admit it until he/she does first"?

Christianity is ultimately God's original creation, restored (and glorified). There's nothing particularly superhuman about the words "sorry - this was my fault; I should never have done that regardless of whatever else was going on". Yet there is something very superhuman about them, because as Howse notes, they don't happen very often. Any old atheist can say, "why do I need to believe in Jesus to live this kind of life?" The answer's in the reality as it exists in 21st century Britain. It's one thing to theorise about how you don't need Jesus; it's another thing to actually face up to what's really the case on the ground.

For those of you who know me, feel free now to wonder amongst yourselves now how I can't see how what I've articulated obviously applies to what I did here, or there, etcetera...


In another news... 79:25. Missed it again, even with the help of a cooler morning. I can't have been fully recovered from a best-yet (in Kenya) 8 miler 2 days ago, as I only needed to equal the last 3 miles from last time (when I had a stitch) to get under the 79.... this may be gibberish except to the elite group of regular readers of this blog...

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