“We were born for nothing but repentance,” said the church father, Tertullian. I believe what he meant was the fact that the Christian does more than just repent one time.
This is what we might think when we read the action point that Peter gave to the crowd at Pentecost:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38).
Jesus the Christ was crucified, and we, like this crowd are responsible, for it was our sin and the demand of God’s justice that sent Him to that tree. When we realize this, the only right response is repentance. That is, it’s a change of mind about the identity of Jesus and a turning from our own pathway of self lordship and self determination, and a willing submission under Jesus as Lord of all.
But, as Tertullian said, this is not the end of the Christian’s relationship with repentance. While in this moment, we might repent in the greatest of ways, from the deepest of places, we continue through the rest of our lives by repenting over and over again. Every time we rebel against the lordship of Christ, every time we sense something competing with our affections for Him, every time we choose to live by the flesh instead of the spirit, we repent and turn to Jesus.
The Christian walks the road of repentance over a lifetime. But the good news of the gospel is that repentance, for the Christian, is safe.
That is to say that when we become a Christian, God brings us into His family. We are His beloved and adopted children, given a place in His family that is irrevocable for it is sealed by faith through the Holy Spirit. We never have to wonder if, this time, we have gone too far. Or if this time, God will meet our repentance with anger and frustration. Or if this time, God will tell us that His grace has run out.
Repentance is safe because God is our eternal Father.
That means many things for us, but among them, if we are Christian parents, it means that we have an opportunity to model this safety in repentance when it comes to our own children. So let me ask the question to myself as well as to you today: Is repentance safe for your children?
When your children own their rebellion, their defiance, their smart mouth, their lying, their laziness, their whatever it is that drives you crazy, and they seek to turn from that, is their repentance safe with you?
Or are you more prone to do that which God does not do with us – to greet that repentance with skepticism? To heap condemnation upon them after they’ve already grasped the gravity of what they’ve done? To manipulate them into better behavior by some perceived withholding of affection and acceptance from them?
Is your child’s repentance safe with you?
This is a hard question for me to answer, and yet another question that reminds me that I am, for a brief time, the strongest introduction for my children to the idea that God can be their Father in Christ. This question forces me to ask as a dad, another question that’s related to it:
What kind of vision of “Father” will my children have as they approach God?
And in asking that, I believe I have yet more repenting to do myself. Thank God doing so is safe.