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 committing the same sin repeatedly mean true repentance has not occurred?
Am I suggesting 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 how it reads is what it means! The key to this, according to a great sermon I heard from a 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 out in marriage? If my wife keeps “repenting” of 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 her repentance. 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. If you keep committing the same sin and demand you be forgiven or treated as if you have changed, you will cause 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 stop sooner, you are showing signs of change. As long as you make progress, even three steps forward and two steps back kind of progress, I think you show a repentant heart.