Isn’t this what the Gospel – the Good News – is all about? Repentance – the gateway to heaven! Repentance – the way home to the Father’s heart and to overflowing joy! For what is repentance but the tailwind driving us into the open arms of the Father? A foretaste of heaven. A gift of the Holy Spirit. In answer to prayer, the Spirit falls afresh on us, breaking our hard and self-righteous hearts – only for God our Father and Maker to take those broken pieces into His hands and form a new vessel to His glory.
What we need today is not better preaching, better strategies, better marketing. All this has its place. But our deepest need is for God-given tears. How rare repentance has become. We tend to put it in the context of evangelism: it’s them, not us, who need to repent. Where in our churches is repentance a way of life? People don’t want to be accountable to a holy God. This attitude has coloured our thinking as Christians. And it’s breaking God’s heart. “Me, a sinner?” we protest, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” But if I don’t want to see myself as a sinner, then I have no need for a Saviour – or for repentance. Why is it so hard to come to repentance? If we want Jesus, the Friend of sinners, to come to us as individuals, as a church or community, there is only one way. Self-righteousness must be dethroned and demolished. Self-righteousness is a legacy of Adam and Eve. As humans we have an excuse for everything. If we lose our temper: “I couldn’t take it lying down.” If we come across as rude, “I was provoked.” Or we struggle with jealousy. “If only God had made me good-looking and gifted. No one takes any notice of me. Is it any wonder I’m bitter?” On and on we go, not realizing we are driving away the very one who could fill our lives with joy, peace and radiance – Jesus, our Saviour, source of all happiness.
As a community, when things went wrong, we have often found a direct link with wrong attitudes in our hearts. We remember the time we were building our motherhouse and chapel with our own hands. For the sisters working on the building site, it was hard to navigate the dump cart piled high with sand. The big fear was that it would jump the rails. They barely had the strength to get it back on again. One day it happened six times. “Just a coincidence? Or was God trying to tell us something?” Soon they found themselves confessing that they had been criticizing each other in their hearts. Now they knew why God had withheld His blessing. Repenting of their negativity, the sisters apologized and forgave each other. Then they went back to work – and the dump cart didn’t jump the tracks a single time!
Dear Lord Jesus, I am asking You for the gift of a contrite and broken heart, the grace of tears. Help me to persevere in prayer and faith until my stony heart is melted and I am able to weep over what I have done to You and others. Let the grace of repentance well up in newness of life and love for You, transforming me inside out. Amen.
Adapted from “Repentance – The Joy-filled Life” by M. Basilea Schlink