“God exalted Jesus to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” Acts 5:31
In the early centuries of the Christian church it was common in the weeks before Easter to prepare new Christians for baptism. It was a time of intense teaching, heart searching, prayer and repentance. This was, I believe, the background for the concept of Lent, which is also meant as a season of preparation, prayer and repentance.
‘Repentance’ is now a largely misunderstood and unpopular concept. One reason for this (and there are many) is the prevailing idea that we are all products of nature and nurture and not particularly responsible for ourselves and our decisions. Scripture tells us that in fact we are entirely accountable for ourselves and our decisions (see 2 Cor. 5:10).
Repentance may have elements of remorse or regret, but it is more about changing our thinking, our attitudes and our perspectives. This involves admitting that we’ve been wrong – a humbling and therefore healthy exercise for humans. The process is essential for personal spiritual growth as well as the well-being of the church. Since most of us aren’t killing, stealing and lying much, our needed repentance will probably be about stuff like our subtle pecking-order thinking, our resistance to prayer or our trust in money as our security. Genuine repentance is a gift of God through Christ, as indicated in the scripture above. It is always liberating, energizing and reconciling – and it brings us closer to Jesus.
The focus of Lent is the cross of Christ. If he in fact died for our sins it’s important to learn what they are and in so doing to grow in appreciation for his sacrifice and love. Let’s celebrate that love together as we share in the Lord’s Supper on March 10th, the First Sunday in Lent.
In Christ’s love,