Of all the steps in the process of forgiveness, I think repentance is the most out of style at the moment, at least for a bunch of 21st-century New Yorkers. When was the last time someone looked you in the face and told you to repent? Can you imagine a therapist, or a best friend, or even our own Stephen Bauman, suggesting that you repent? I hear the word repent and I see either crazed prophets wandering the desert, or fundamentalists picketing outside of gay bars and Planned Parenthoods. It seems like an idea from a time gone by when superstitious morality governed society, and the paths people were allowed to choose from were few and narrow. I don’t feel a spiritual connection to the word because in my experience it has been owned by people who use it to enforce a value system that I think misses the point entirely.
But I think it’s time for me to reclaim this word. When I looked it up in Merriam-Webster, I came across this definition: (a) to feel regret or contrition (b) to change one’s mind. What a concise, elegant word that is! How many other words include both the impetus and the action? The word repent includes an entire spiritual discipline.
Repentance is the step in the process of forgiveness that incorporates humility. God requires me to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, and I can never be truly humble until I can identify that I’ve done something wrong and change my mind/behavior/path. Trying to justify myself is arrogance; staying the same course is arrogance. Genuine humility might not be very fashionable in 2017 in New York City, but it is absolutely necessary for my spirit, my community, and my relationship with God.
Friends and members of our Christ Church family have prepared these daily reflections as a means for you to consider how forgiveness informs your faith walk during this holy season. They are a richly diverse group from many different geographies around our nation and globe, formed by a wide variety of traditions.