Repentance means feeling in our hearts the madness and guilt of our sins. It means acknowledging those we have offended and wronged, both our fellow man and God Himself. And most importantly, it means a change in our thoughts and in our way of life, an about-face in which we utterly reject sin and embrace virtue and holiness. In this post, we explore the true nature of repentance, and how we can cultivate this transformation in our spiritual lives.
In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word metanoia, “to think differently after”. In other words, repentance means a change of mind/heart, accompanied by regret and a change in behavior. One of the best scriptural examples of true repentance is the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32.
The nature of repentance
Repentance should be sincere, and not forced in any way. Otherwise it would not be true penitence. Moreover, repentance must encompass our whole being. We cannot simply say, “Forgive me, Lord,” with our mouth, while at the same time refusing to change our behavior and not feeling remorse and sorrow for our sin. That is not true repentance.
Additionally, repentance is the renewal of our life. When we realize our sinfulness, we weep. And by the grace of God, our tears (and confession) cleanse us of our sins and allow us to get back up and try again. This means true repentance involves freeing ourselves from our past sins and turning toward God. No sin is unforgivable except the sin of unrepentance.
Try, try, try again
Saint John of Kronstadt writes, “If you fall, rise and you shall be saved.” All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall, sometimes dozens of times a day. But it’s important that we get up immediately and continue walking toward God. No matter how many times we fall, we must get up and not look back. That sin you committed is now in the past. Repent, and the Lord will forgive. All you need to do is keep going, all the while asking for God’s help.
Learn to forgive yourself
It is okay to remember our past sins. Doing so serves as a warning for us, so we do not become prideful and fall into the same sin a second, third, or fiftieth time. But we must take care when remembering, because often we latch onto this memory and refuse to forgive ourselves for the sin we committed. If we truly meant it when we asked for forgiveness, God has already forgiven us. Therefore, we must learn to let go of our pride and forgive ourselves.
We must remember the abyss of God’s mercy and love for mankind. The demons will make you see the Lord’s face as terrible and unmerciful, rejecting your prayer and repentance. But remember His words, full of hope and boldness for us: “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out;” and “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Repentance means a change of heart
When we truly repent, our behavior will change. By the grace of God, we will strive to defeat our passions and act the way our Lord wants us to live. No matter how many times we fall, we need to remember to get back up and try again. We also need to learn how to forgive ourselves and others as God forgives us.
Keep Reading: Being Born Again In Holy Baptism