A confession up front – I am having a difficult time with what I am seeing as I look at repentance. I think the following is what the Bible says, but it is a lot harder than what we generally think and believe. Personally, this is the standard I have tried to hold myself to, while holding others to a lower standard. Going to have to pray and think about that.
Does no change in behaviour mean there has been no repentance? Does doing the same sin repeatedly mean there has been no true repentance? Am I saying we must be perfect to have repented? NO! Consider this difficult passage:
“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” [1-john 3:6-10 ESV]
There is no way I can live up to that passage if it means exactly how it reads! The key to this, according to a great sermon I heard from a very wise pastor years ago, is that bolded part “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning“. Yes, we sin, but we do not make a practice of sinning. We hate it, we fight it, and with His help, we make progress over our sin.
So how does this play in marriage? If my bride keeps “repenting” the same sin over, and over, and over, has she really repented? I cannot know her heart, but if she does not show “fruits worthy of repentance” (Mt 3:8) there is reason to question what is going on. If I keep committing the same sin repeatedly, have I “changed my mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of my past sins?” (see yesterday’s post)
I am not comfortable with much of what could be taken from this, but I will say this much – if you keep committing the same sin, repeatedly “repenting” to your spouse becomes a useless thing. What’s more, if you keep committing the same sin, demanding that you be forgiven or treated as if you have changed, is likely to cause you problems. If you want to be treated as if you have changed, you probably need to actually change.
By the way – change does not mean perfection. If you are committing a sin less often, or sometimes stop sooner, that is progress and a sign of change. As long as you make progress, even three steps forward and two steps back kind of progress, I think it shows a repentant heart.
Image Credit: © Ben Sutherland | flickr.com