We are a divided country today. Righting ourselves begins with the Church. The following excerpt from Restoring the Shattered explains the role of repentance is rebuilding the image of the Church to the world.
Repentance is how we start to restore the image of the Bride [the Church], not in a public relations sense, but in a biblical one. And repentance begins with the faithful.
Why the faithful? Isn’t repentance something for the unbelieving population to grasp—those we perceive are messing up the world and dragging our culture into a downward spiral? Yes, it’s something they need to do to become part of the Bride, part of the picture. But the kind of repentance that can turn the world around is for us. It’s for his people already in the church.
I didn’t come to this idea on my own. I’d been praying for our nation to turn back to God, but in my mind that always involved something someone else needed to do. I’ll pray. I’ll watch. I’ll work when I can. I’ll cheer when it happens.
At brunch one day, my longtime friend, Renee, dropped a brick of truth on my head. “He calls his own people to repentance—my people … called by my Name.”
That is me.
That is us.
The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, are a study of contrasts. Each king had a prophet. Each one sinned. Only David repented.
Saul’s prophet was Samuel. Impatient Saul carried out a sacrifice, refusing to wait for Samuel who was supposed to perform it. Afterward, he explained to Samuel that he acted “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines [the enemy] were assembling at Michmash.”
Saul listed his motivations; maybe they sounded reasonable to him. Maybe they sounded silly as he listed them aloud for Samuel, who said, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.”[i] Saul stepped out of his role as king and into the wrong role of priest. But instead of confessing and repenting, he tried to justify himself.
David had a prophet too. When David committed adultery, impregnated the woman, and then arranged to have her husband killed to cover his crime, the prophet Nathan confronted him. Unlike Saul, David did not give a list of excuses. His response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”[ii]
Saul and David both offended God. Saul made excuses and wore a false face before the people. David was transparent before God and Nathan. That difference set in motion the events that would remove Saul’s line from the throne of Israel and establish David’s in the line of Christ.
Many churches have turned the volume way down on the discussion of repentance and are blasting the message of God’s love. But we won’t find blessing unless we refuse Saul’s methods and adopt David’s.
Our news sources daily spew stories of atrocities accompanied by many excuses and little repentance. Sometimes we are aghast at what people try to justify: mass shootings, rape, looting, riots, and the list goes on.
There is a sense that my rights are sovereign and yours are nonexistent. Many in the church have bought into that message. Instead of confessing our sins and maintaining transparent lives, we justify our sins, deceiving ourselves that they don’t exist or simply don’t matter.
We can’t expect the world to exhibit behavior we don’t model. When we model repentance, others see David instead of Saul. Repentance is the first step on a life journey when we determine to follow Christ, but it’s also a frequent stopping place along the way—a place where we check our direction and retool our priorities, letting him reshape our attitudes.
Repentance produces changed people.
Repentance produces anointed, effective ministry.
Rather than being a negative burden, repentance is an overtly optimistic act.
God commands us to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”[iii] Sin and life’s burdens weigh us down. On top of those burdens, we add the pressure to appear perfect.
Acknowledging our reality and letting others into that reality is uncomfortable, but that is where healing happens. There is no other way for us to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” [iv] That’s important, and we often overlook it. Sharing our burdens with one another fulfills the law—not just our prayer requests for that new job or relief of our child’s ear infection—but our burdens, what weighs us down and holds us back. Letting each other know our sins is uncomfortable. But confessing our sins to each other brings healing.
[i] 1 Samuel 13:11–13.
[ii] 2 Samuel 12:13.
[iii] James 5:16, emphasis added. The rest of the verse says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Righteousness follows repentance, not the other way around.
[iv] Galatians 6:2, emphasis added.