I have been reading the book of Revelation lately. What strikes me as I read it again is the hardness of the human heart. As God unleashes his judgment, horrific things happen to our world. Many are injured, many die. Yet the human survivors take no time to reflect. They don’t consider their own culpability or even ask why these catastrophes have happened. Instead they lash out curses and profanities against God.
In reading the text you get the sense if they just recognized the error of their ways and repented, God would relent from his judgment and save them. After all, God desires none should perish and all to be saved. Yet they have become so hardhearted, so convinced of their own righteousness that repentance doesn’t even occur to them.
We’re taught from a young age to justify ourselves and avoid admitting our mistakes, but we will never go anywhere in our spiritual lives in the absence of true repentance. Repentance is our initiation into a relationship with God. It is the recognition that God is God and we are mere creatures. In the absence of repentance, we forfeit our greatest responsibility as created beings—admitting our utter dependence on God as the source of our lives.
Repentance demonstrates an understanding of our nature. We have a propensity to go in the wrong direction—in the direction that builds up our status and pride. As we get older, it’s harder to repent. Once we have invested so much time and energy in going in a particular direction, it takes great humility to admit living in error for decades. Everything in our being wants to fight against it. We want to justify ourselves. Surely we must be right if we have believed something for so long? Christopher Columbus always insisted the lands he visited in America were actually Asia, but it didn’t make it so.
We need repentance to set us on the right course again so that our agendas and priorities become aligned with those of God. For the followers of Christ, repentance is a way of life. Every morning we wake up filled with all kinds of distractions. Things we want, things we crave. If left unchecked, they will grab hold of us. Daily repentance keeps us on the right path.
So let’s not attach any shame to repentance; rather repentance is a mark of charter.