Not Just Semantics


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1: 8-9. (KJV)

“Repent---the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” These may sound like the words of some pulpit pounding evangelist, yet they are the first recorded words of Jesus ministry in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The word “repent” may strike us as being anachronistic as in many of our churches the Gospel preached is heavy on love and peace, with the notion of “sin” shuffled to the back of the sermon order. But why would Jesus have launched his ministry with this message if it weren’t a crucial factor in our relationship with him?

When confronted with our misdeeds we are prone to stumble over the word “repent”, but Christ makes it clear that confession is a prerequisite for forging a life with him at the lead. We have the same reservations about using the word “sin.” We dodge the truth by saying we were wrong, or that we made mistakes or had errors in judgment or suffered moral lapses, all just dilute substitutes for the real word---sin. It isn’t any less true simply because we like to think of ourselves as more refined and self-aware than Christ’s audience.

If we want to pursue a life with him, we are asked to humble ourselves like children and he, in turn, like a parent nudging her child to admit wrongdoing, asks us to repent. Priding ourselves on being thoroughly modern men and women we struggle with such an old-fashioned concept. We will go so far as to apologize and undergo the momentary discomfort that carries with it, but repent---doesn’t that imply we are guilty of something bordering on the criminal? Or in the very least hint at the existence of some heavenly judicial hierarchy that we are uneasy about appearing before?. Surely many of us are convinced we have nothing more than petty sins on our accounts if indeed someone is keeping score.

There is a delicate dance of sorts that exists between our maker and his progeny, just as there is between us humans and our children As any parent knows, any apology was given solely because it is expedient, coaxed, is half-hearted and no apology at all. A wise parent will make her case, prick her child’s conscience, and then leave him alone to reason with himself.

So similarly Christ doesn’t insert or insinuate himself into our decision making when it comes to owning up to our sins. He puts the invitation to us; it is poised between us like a dance partner beckoning us onto the dancefloor—it is up to us to accept or refuse.

Our Father, Please help us to understand the far-reaching impact of your gracious offer of salvation. Amen.

Carol (NC)