Cultures of Repentance

Two weeks ago I was sitting with a bunch of guys over a slab of bacon, two over-easy eggs and about a pot of coffee each- talking about, “Why Evangelical Jesus followers don’t repent very easily.” This week I hung out with a great friend, who opened up his heart to me about a process of repentance that God brought him too and through that truly saved his life; Also this week our church plant network has been dealing with an issue of repentance that has threatened to kill a young pastor, his sweet wife, three young kids and the church God raised up around them.
I am so teeed off at the devastation of our own sinful behaviors, the power of addiction, and the deep scars that unrepentance can bring; that I probably shouldn’t be writing;(BTW- by unrepentance I also mean ‘incomplete half repentance’) Yet in the midst of this, I am amazed at the beauty, new life, reclaimed love and new found freedom that honest repentance, ownership of sin and accountable recovery can bring by the grace of God!

I think we, churches in general, do a really sucky job at creating authentic environments for true repentance to happen, or want to happen. Why is it that usually the only time we hear about a guy who wants to repent is AFTER he has completely destroyed his own life and the lives of those he loves?! Don’t go mis reading me now -I am not o.k.-ing the touchy, feely, mystic church environments that continually endorse that we just let it all hang out, our sin, our addiction, our struggles with deep temptation, repenting openly every Sunday at ‘open mike’ time, and then lets just see what happens….. Most time what happens is they describe their lust and struggle so powerfully and attractively that three or four other guys get hooked into the same deep sin. -‘Watch in case you fall into the same sin’- Something Apostle Paul warned about in the midst of leading others in repentance.
But I do think we have made our faith so sterile in our church cultures that there is no room for the true authentic repentance that should be happening when Jesus followers are instructed to ‘confess your sins one to another and bear one an others‘ burdens.’ I do believe a sterile faith is an impotent faith. (Unwilling to engage in the messiness of authentic spiritual relationships in Christ, removes the opportunity for the power of God to press in on those areas of our life).
What is repentance for any way? So that the offender is so devastated and destroyed, bloodied and wounded while the rest of the soldiers shake their self righteous heads and say, “Yeah, I knew it, He was a ‘poser- soldier‘ really anyway, lets all kick him on the way to the pot- luck mess hall called church after the battle.” For many situations that I have witnessed and even been involved with, that seems to be the totality of the act of repentance. No wonder guys wait until their lives are completely destroyed, and then are forced to repent or at least to make part confessions.

Isn’t the point of repentance so that we can make direct steps away from devastation and towards reconciliation? Isn’t recovery and reconciliation- true peace, PAX, shalom- the whole point of repentance. I am not sure how but do believe if we can focus on creating environments of reconciliation, recovery, redemption there will be a natural outflow of relationships of repentance.

I love it when my kids come to me to confess their love for me and need of me to care for them, because they are worried something they said or did has possibly hurt my heart. I hate it when I have said or done something that has hurt the heart of my wife or my kids…I just can’t let it go…I have to make it right by honest confession and repentance… that the love can be restored! Ahhhhhh the secure, joyous, safe place of reconciliation; Looks and smells like relationships of true love.

“Even while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!” Ahhhhhhhh looks and smells like true love- “reconciling us to the Father.”