refocusing the purpose of repentance on relational restoration

I recognized a few years ago that I would get really frustrated when people would say “I am sorry” and it took me a while to figure out why that was. I knew it was something I did not like. The words felt hollow to me, like there was not any backing or meaning behind them. .  I recently discovered this through a few conversations with some close people in my life and through further discovery of my great interest in restoration. I noticed the most frustration whenever somebody would say they are going to do something and then do not do it. That is falling short, or missing the mark. Some call it a lie, some call it not keeping your word, or some call it a let down. I would say at the core it is all of these things. A very famous person named Jesus once said, “Do not swear upon anything not even your father or mother because you can not tell what is going to happen tomorrow,” and in a similar instance he said “let your yes be a yes and your no be a no.” We will all fall short of this, including myself, but it is extremely relevant to restoring our vision. Keeping your word and having integrity behind your actions is difficult in many ways but it will bring clarity to how you view life. 

One of the ways that I want to show this is through repentance. This I realize is a difficult and sensitive topic, but I feel it is a necessity if we want to walk in a restorative way. For some, I recognize that repentance can bring up feelings of condemnation, guilt, rejection or self-righteousness. These things I hope can be restored in you. Repentance is a big word and there is much meaning behind it, but I am going to be working with the specific part that looks at the action part of the definition. What I am speaking of is the act of recognizing what is being done or has been done and turning away from it to move towards a direction of love. 

The reason that I bring up this action part of repentance is because repentance is a necessary step in restoration. We often do not keep our word when we say that we repent, but we merely treat it as a way of saying sorry or contemporarily “my bad”. This is not enough because we forget the part of turning away and walking towards love. We can not lightly throw around repentance, but we should do the opposite and embrace it daily and routinely. As Tim Keller says, “repentance is a way of life.” What I am not saying is that we should be ritualistic or religious with our repentance because that would make it a behavior modification and repentance is about heart transformation, which is why it is a necessary step in restoration. 

The reason we need to keep our word or value our integrity is because repentance is the step after forgiveness and before reconciliation in the restorative process. It is the middle ground that brings the two parties back together. If we do not mean what we say when we repent then it is empty, weak, and meaningless. In the great words of Michael Franti, “say what you mean and mean what you say”. For those that have been hurt by people that have used the word repentance towards you in a hurtful way or for those who use it in a ritualistic way, I hope this restores your vision of repentance and gives you hope in the purpose of repentance. Remember if you recognize you are doing something that is missing the mark and do not turn towards love then that is not love, but is rejection and pride. If repentance is not bringing you back into a restorative relationship with love then it is not being used the right way. Open your eyes for the Kingdom of God is here, so now repent. Repentance is the path to restoration.