“And did you not know, it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.”Romans 2:4
Repentance can be a complicated thing. As children, we were often encouraged to “say you’re sorry;” but as an adult, those opportunities can become less frequent. How often do we truly say that we’re sorry for something we did, and mean it?
One of the reasons that repentance can seem uncomfortable is because it is often the response to guilt. Knowing we did something wrong is never a fun feeling – we may feel shame, guilt, or embarrassment. Repentance means humbling ourselves before another person and asking for their forgiveness. When we admit a mistake, we choose to let go of any defensiveness and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
It may not feel pleasant in the moment, but did you know that our repentance is actually a result of God’s kindness towards us? In Romans 2, Paul is speaking to Jewish Christians, who considered themselves a holy people, entitled to their privileges by right, while being rebellious and unrighteous. Paul was reminding them that the ruin of sinners is their having a hard and impenitent heart. Our self-righteousness pales to God’s eternal mercy.
“We aren’t guilty for the sins of people who came before us, but we are responsible for the world their actions created.”Jemar Tisby
In trying to build a more equitable world that is marked by justice for People of Color, we as white Christians can become defensive, clutching what we deem “our rights” to our chest. Or we can open our hands, allow our hearts to be filled with humility and repentance, and respond to God’s kindness with love for others. In How to Fight Racism, Jemar Tisby wrote, “Most people know that Jesus came to bring forgiveness and grace. Less well-known is the Biblical teaching that a true experience of the grace of Jesus Christ inevitably motivates a man or woman to seek justice in the world.”
May we repent for the world that has been created around us, and may we seek to develop radical empathy, seeing the Imago Dei in every human being we encounter.