Characteristics of Repentance

Repentance is not complete without fruit to demonstrate its reality.  While it is just one little verse, Mt. 3:8 gives us a clue that there is such a thing as fruit that demonstrates repentance.  What might that fruit be?

 First of all, repentance is not just saying the words, “I’m sorry” or “I repent of x, y, & z.”  Repentance inherently includes the concept of reversing direction.  Repentance without complete behavior change is not repentance.

Repentance also stays the course.  Repentance is not genuine if it is recanted once the violator gets what he wants. 

Repentance is also public, if appropriate.  Wrong done in public or publicly exposed, should be publically repented. 

A repentant attitude will be accompanied by a heart of humility that recognizes and grieves the hurt caused.  Repentance and pride cannot occur simultaneously.  So repentance offered with a jaunty “oops” attitude is not genuine repentance.  At the same time, we need to beware of crocodile tears.  False humility in public with an unchanged private life is not repentance.

Repentance cannot occur simultaneously with lies either.  A repentance that acknowledges a sin that has been publically exposed while continuing to hide sin that has not been exposed, is not repentance.  A specific example is a man who “repents” for one act of immorality he’s been caught committing, while failing to acknowledge and continuing to hide his other immoral relationships.  That “repentance” is just to keep his fanny out of hot water and perhaps preserve his position.

True repentance will also accept the consequences of wrong actions.  God forgives the repentant heart.  His forgiveness is complete.  However, He does not exempt us from the consequences of our actions.  For instance, if a man in church leadership is caught in immorality he has voided his qualifications for church leadership since the Bible requires a church leader to live a blameless life.  A man or woman who is a pedophile must accept the natural consequences of jail time and/or permanent removal from work with children.  A church that supercedes these consequences is not only foolishly putting young people in danger, it is guilty of putting someone in the way of temptation, and, even more, extending “forgiveness” even further than God Himself does.  Parents who are convicted of child abuse must accept the loss of their children if that is the judgment of the court.  It’s a harsh thing, but it is the natural consequence of wrong done.

While we are expected to forgive, we are not expected to forgive (offer absolution to) someone who is not genuinely repentant.


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