Words like repentance make people feel bad. So we cut them out. We soften and replace them. And now everyone feels a whole lot better.
Except that – we don’t. We’re more depressed and stressed than ever before. Why? Because there’s false guilt; but there’s true guilt too. If we don’t acknowledge it, then we can’t turn from it. And if it doesn’t exist, then it can’t be taken away.
If we take away repentance, we’re left with self-condemnation. And they’re not the same thing:
With repentance, I hate my sin. With self-condemnation, I hate myself.
With repentance I look at my heart. With self-condemnation I look at my behaviour.
Repentance tells me to look up. Self-condemnation tells me to look within.
Repentance is specific. Self-condemnation is everything.
Repentance acknowledges true guilt – and finds true forgiveness. Self-condemnation acknowledges shame and seeks temporary comfort.
Repentance comes from heavenly kindness. Self-condemnation comes from human hardness.
Repentance is paid for by somebody else. Self-condemnation is the burden you carry alone.
Repentance brings change, forgiveness and hope. Self-condemnation is a circle of guilt and despair.
Repentance comes from the Spirit. Self-condemnation comes from the pit.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love
Joel 2: 12-13