Here’s a Thought for Oct. 27

What does repentance mean to you?

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Our sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church believe that sacramental confession requires three “acts” on the part of the penitent: contrition (sorrow of the soul for the sins committed), disclosure of the sins (the “confession”), and satisfaction (the “penance,” i.e. doing something to make amends for the sins).

In general, our sisters and brothers in either the Eastern Catholic or Orthodox faith communities choose an individual to trust as his or her spiritual guide. In most cases this is the parish priest. This person is often referred to as one’s “spiritual father.” Once chosen, the individual turns to their spiritual guide for advice on their spiritual development, confessing sins, and asking advice.

Lutherans within their various synods, see James 5:16 and John 20:22-23 as Biblical evidence for repentance and confession of their sins. They recite the general confession of sins and receives God’s forgiveness through the pastor as he says the following: “Upon this your confession and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Thus within Christendom we see that repenting and confessing one’s sins are necessary for salvation and eternal life. Sadly, however, the belief of sin itself is disappearing within many circles throughout Christendom today.

Over 30 years ago, psychiatrist Karl Menninger penned the following words in his book “Whatever Became of Sin?” “The very word, ‘sin,’ which seems to have disappeared, was once a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared — the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?

This coming Oct. 31, millions of Protestants and Lutherans will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Church Reformer Dr. Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on Wittenburg’s Castle Church. The very first Thesis was “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to one of repentance.”

So, what does “repentance” mean for us living in a culture or society that rejects the belief of moral absolutes, like the Ten Commandments? Who decides if racism or murder or slander, or sexual behaviors are right or wrong? Or, are we living like of Israelites did in the days of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”? (Judges 17:6)

Even within many of the 12 Step Programs for recovery from their addictions they are told to “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” And “Admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” In other words “Repent” as Dr. Martin Luther directed his sisters and brothers in Christ over 500 years ago.

Thus with Christendom let us not only celebrate this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, but recommit and renew ourselves to the forgiving grace of God given to us through His gift of saving faith in Christ Crucified for where there is repentance and forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation.

To God alone the glory! Amen.