As a Christian, an important part of my relationship with God is my repentance. This is because, it is through my repentance that I communicate to God that I am sincerely sorry. It is my repentance that initiates my improvement in any given area. My relationship with God is now more secure than ever before because he has responded favorably to my repentance. However, he can’t respond favorably to my repentance if I never repent. The forgiveness of God comes to us after we repent, not before.
I start with this because just as repentance is important for our relationship with God it is also important to our relationship with each other. Previously I wrote an article on forgiveness but it would be unfair and unbalanced of me not to also speak of repentance. True forgiveness for the average person is hard and we are generally encouraged to forgive even in the absence of an apology. However, the work of forgiveness can be made up to 50% easier if the person who has to forgive knows you are sincerely sorry for your offence and are striving to be better.
What is Repentance?
Repentance and an apology though closely related are not the same. A verbal or written apology is something that can be delivered in a moment but true repentance is delivered over time and usually follows the apology. We often hear that an apology isn’t sincere unless it is followed up with changed behavior. However, in the case of entrenched habits, it is not so simple. A person may genuinely apologize for an action but has very little understanding or control of the impulse that influenced their behavior. So, the offence may happen again even though the person is sincerely sorry.
Repentance is the process and eventual result of a changed heart which then is reflected in changed behavior, in short repentance is changed behavior. With true repentance, even the most entrenched habits can be broken. With true repentance, your loved one will never have to endure the same offence over and over again and your heart will maintain a posture of humility.
Humility is needed for repentance just as with forgiveness
A key attitude that we need to have in order to forgive is humility because it is usually a position of self-righteousness that hinders us from doing so. The thought goes through our mind “I can’t believe he/she did that, I would never...” is the benchmark of unforgiveness. The same goes for repentance if we don’t recognize our mistake as a mistake, or if we don’t acknowledge the pain our mistake has caused our close relative, or if we feel justified in doing the offensive action there will be no motivation to repent.
Without humility, there can be no repentance or forgiveness and without those, no relationship can stand the test of time. However, there is a beautiful way to how repentance and forgiveness balance each other. Couples that can master these practices are right at the edge of immense joy and contentment in their relationship. Because forgiveness and repentance kill the power struggle that isn’t even supposed to exist, but it does exist because of our selfishness and pride. When we exchange offence for offence, we get sucked up into a whirlwind of strife that drives us further and further away from the happy relationships we so long for.
Don’t be the source of your own pain
Humble yourself and repent even if you feel you have a right to your behavior. Repent, even if you feel as if your loved one is blowing the offence out of proportion. Repent, even if you are unsure you are able to sustain the change that is required of you. Because your repentance will also help initiate the forgiving work that your loved one has to do.
Where there is forgiveness without repentance the one who has forgiven will start to feel as if their kindness is being taken for granted. Where there is repentance without forgiveness, the repentant person will feel as if his/her efforts are futile and they dare not make another mistake as if mistakes are ever intended. In both instances, the unforgiveness and/or unrepentance motivate withdrawal which if nothing changes will lead to the end of the relationship. This is true of our relationship with each other and with God. This is why I said earlier that if we can master the art of forgiveness and repentance in our relationships there is an immense joy and satisfaction we will grasp once we get there.
If you are having a hard time in your relationship it may mean you need to say I’m sorry, try a different approach and give your loved one some assurance that if they forgive you, you won’t take it for granted. Repentance can be just as hard as forgiveness but as the apostle Paul says in Galatians chapter 6 verse 9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Darren Salmon is a young man from Kingston, Jamaica where he read for his Bachelor of Science degree in BioTechnology at the University of West Indies. He became a follower of Jesus when he was 10 and has since developed a ministry of Christian Poetry for which he has gained a godly reputation. Darren is husband to the lovely Mrs. Kimberley Salmon (previously Morgan), another talented young writer with Christian Today. Darren is a joint 1st place recipient of the Tronson award for international young writers with Christian Today for the year 2019. To read Darren’s previous articles visit his weebly site at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/darren-salmon.html