The stigma of ‘Repent & Believe’
By Sam Clear, Caretaker for the Director of Office of Youth Evangelisation
I’ve just finished a week on the road across New South Wales facilitating seminars and staff professional development days, but I’ve been contemplating for the last few days one specific comment on what was seen as unnecessary church rules on personal freedoms; “Jesus just asked us to love one another, that’s all.”
In Matthew 22:37 Jesus underscores the criticality of, “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to also, “… love your neighbour as yourself.”
By what measure do we define love of God and of others though? Is it to be nice to others and letting others do what they want? Perhaps in part, but it’s not hard to throw in a few extreme examples where everyone would agree that specific scenarios are not acceptable.
“Repent & believe” occurs in some form 22 times in the New Testament, plus variants such as Jesus guiding the woman caught in adultery to, “Go, and sin no more,” (John 8:11). God doesn’t leave us hanging wondering how to love. Jesus shows us and exhorts us. To repent, or to confess, often has a stigma attached to it. It can be seen as an unhealthy guilt, but it is offered to us by Jesus as an integral participation in God’s love.
If we see repentance as a humble act of love and in fact service, we step deeper into the mystery of, “Sacrifice gives you no pleasure… Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, a broken, contrite heart you never scorn” (Psalm 51:16-17). The Hebrew word, “Sin” is an archery term meaning to ‘miss the mark’. We want to be loved and, in most cases, love others, but it’s easy to miss the mark. St Paul even writes that no gossiper or slanderer is in heaven! Ouch. It’s easy to miss the mark.
There are many things God asks of us that we may wish to ignore as not affecting our relationship with God, but like a spouse ignoring their other half’s efforts to explain how they are hurt by certain actions and putting them down to nothing more than ‘their stupid rules’, there is an enormous difference between avoiding guilt, and loving the other so much that the opportunity to repent becomes wonderfully joyful. Reconciliation with God is a humble, joyful reunion. Lord, help our unbelief.