Silencing the Message of Repentance in Churches
The word repentance in its various forms and usages appears hundreds of times in scripture. Repentance is the process of correcting wrongs, making restitution for harm done to others through transgression, and abandoning personal sin. Repentance is central to the Plan of Salvation because without it, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ cannot be applied as a healing and cleansing agent. Because man has moral agency to choose good or evil, even God Himself cannot save man without gaining man’s permission. Repentance is the recognition of responsibility for sin as well as the plea for Divine help.
Fewer and fewer churches are including Biblical calls to repentance in their general messages. Many justify this softer stance on the basis that “repentance means different things to different people.” Others such as some Congregationalists and the Unitarian Universalists, are consciously appealing to groups such as cohabitating adults and homosexuals, whose personal choices are in conflict with Biblical Commandments. Repentance presupposes baptism, and though baptism is a symbolic ritual, without a doctrine of repentance guiding the seeker, entry into a Christian church becomes little more than membership in a do-gooders club.
Remorse is hard to bear. The suffering of one recounting and correcting his wrongdoings pricks our own consciences, reminding us that sin has a heavy cost. But more than that, the idea of having to suffer repentance, remorse, and godly sorrow in order to be actualized as a Christian, is a turnoff to casual churchgoers and clerics seeking quick fixes to rebuild flagging congregations. Many churches are inadvertently redefining themselves as social service organizations rather than places of worship, where the Word of God is taught and high standards of conduct are expected. The goal of some mental health counselors is to help their clients feel more at home with their moral shortcomings, thus blaming the psychological pain that comes from living a perverse and destructive lifestyle, on extrinsic factors such as “social stigma,” or “discrimination.” Churches, not unlike politically correct therapists, are failing to give firm directives for personal change to those who come to them seeking a better way. Repentance, however, is essential to happiness in this life and the next.
Truman G. Madsen, in his essay, “Human Anguish and Divine Love” uses the following analogy which can be applied the role of Jesus Christ as Savior and the nature and purpose of repentance:
Imagine , for a moment, what it might be like to have a close, intimate friend who is sworn to stand by you and protect you, and maybe even die for you. Suppose he is a native of a foreign country and has never heard of modern surgery.
If he were ushered into a room where you were undergoing an appendectomy, saw the doctors and nurses cutting away and the evidences of blood and pain, he would likely jump to three conclusions:
- That these persons were trying to torture you, perhaps take your life.
- That all this was against your will.
- That the highest service he could render you would be to pull them off.
But, you see, he would not only be mistaken: his assumptions would, in fact, be the exact opposite of the truth. These highly-trained persons are intent on helping you. Truly, they could spare you the pain of the operation, but only at the cost of your life.
Those churches softening their stances on sin, and making the Commandments optional according to the tastes of their congregants, are withholding that frightening, painful surgery so awful to witness, but the only means to save our eternal lives.
Wickedness never was happiness, and if unchecked and corrected through the repentance process, will lead to a spiritual death.
Truly Christ-like qualities can’t be faked. The person enamored and happily engaged in sin is a poor pretender to the perfected character of Jesus Christ. Traits such as charity, hope, and faith are earned through daily conscientious attempts to be charitable, have hope in good things, and placing one’s faith not in what the world says is acceptable, but in the Divine will and word of God. The virtues of compassion and kindness are rarely found in those who fail to repent of on-going, soul-cankering sin. The sins of our day; homosexuality and other sexual perversions, fornication, abortion, pornography, substance abuse, infidelity, physical and emotional cruelty, dishonesty, theft, cheating, aggression and violence upon the innocent, disrespect, hate in its many forms, ingratitude, egoism, etc. when couched in politically correct terminology are often accepted and touted as harmless life choices. But wickedness in any form, if not corrected, will stifle the progression of its perpetrators.
Virtuous living, in adherence with the Biblical principles set forth in the Ten Commandments, results in a deep sense of emotional security. Emotional security, reassurance, and self-worth fill people with the sincere desire to give of their time and substance, reach out to the sick and afflicted, the poor and the imprisoned, and go fearlessly into the world to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The authority of religion does not come from a title, it comes only from fidelity to the principles of righteousness established by God. Those faiths with firm scriptural doctrines and unwavering moral values are growing, while others shrink. One key pillar of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to take the Word of God into all the world. Only those who actually believe and live the Word of Jesus Christ have credibility as His disciples. Any church which chooses to silence its message of real repentance stands for little, and probably won’t stand for long.