Saturday, May 23, 2015
I was reading a novel and toward the end there was an interesting paragraph about regrets. We’ve all experienced regrets, maybe even remorse, along with a bit of self-pity when we think of what has happened to us. Some never get past that point to consider what we’ve done to others and regret those actions.
There’s a parable beginning in Matthew 18:24, about a king that forgave a servant's debt. The servant, however, tossed his debtor into prison. In verse 32 we read the king's view of this action:
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? (Matthew 18:32-33 KJV)
The servant had not learned mercy as his master had. He gave no thought to forgiving others. The servant showed no repentance, no change in his life. He did live to regret his actions, but it was to late:
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. (Matthew 18:34 KJV)
Today, the definition of "repent" is to feel (or even express) sincere regret or remorse about wrongdoing. Synonyms are remorse, regret, contrition. The definition gave the source – Latin to Old French to Old English, with a graph showing “regret”’s use going down hill for more than a hundred years:
How about what I see as even greater than regret is contrition. Again we see synonyms of remorse, repentance, sorrow, regret while the definition is feeling remorseful and penitent.
Penitent – now there’s a good word both as an adjective (contrite, remorseful, sorry, apologetic, regretful, conscience-stricken, rueful, ashamed) and as a noun (a person who repents their sins or wrongdoings and, in the Christian Church, seeks forgiveness from God) – now there’s action. There’s making changes.
Psalm 51 is way at the top of my favorites. David confesses his sin and sets an example, as a man’s after God’s own heart, for our own:
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalms 51:14-17 KJV)
Acknowledging without changing reminds me of an old adage that says the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Continuing in what God has made clear to us is sinfulness while regretting our actions is not repenting.
Yet, repenting is what Jesus preached from the beginning of His ministry:
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17 KJV)
To the end book of the Bible:
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:19-20 KJV)
That’s the church at Laodicea, the last of the seven Jesus addressed in John’s vision. Chapter 4 moves the conversation to the Lord’s throne, away from what was to happen in this world. Now that’s a huge change!
Are we willing to make the changes necessary in our lives to understand the 51st psalm? To make the offering of a broken and contrite heart? Not to have it broken to cause us pain, but to bring to us recognition of our sins to the point we ask His forgiveness and change our ways. Is that the change our lives need? I do so believe it is needed in mine.