Repentance – Gospel Study Sesh
With a new year come new resolutions, a freshness, and a desire for change. This makes me reflect on repentance, a topic I’m surprised we’ve yet to cover here at Study Sesh. I feel like there is some sort of social stigma surrounding repentance, as if he or she who must repent – however grievous the sin – must be avoided or shunned. It’s a weird facet of Mormon culture that must be our analog to the famed “Catholic guilt.”
But repentance, while difficult, has not been given to us by a vindictive God who seeks to punish us for our malfeasance. It is a wonderful gift given by a generous Father to enable us to cleanse ourselves. Let’s spend the next few days discussing repentance.
- Why must we repent when Christ’s grace is described as “sufficient”? How do we reconcile the concept of an atonement that covers all sin with a need to purge ourselves of sin?
- “His Grace Is Sufficient” – Brad Wilcox
- “The Divine Gift of Repentance” – Elder D. Todd Christofferson
This is a great topic for the new year, and a fine question to start with – Why must we repent when Christ’s grace is described as “sufficient”?
I am reminded of the fact that we are forgiven and made clean strictly through and by grace, it is His grace that matters, not our weak efforts at fixing things, it is all in His grace. So why do we even need to bother? Repentance is the way we progress, it is the means by which we draw unto our Savior. As we are fixed through the Atonement, we gain experience, understanding, empathy, wisdom, love, and so on. Repentance does nothing to level the scale of justice, luckily that’s not how it works, but instead, the scales of justice are leveled by our Savior so we can enjoy the benefits of taking advantage of the Atonement. Like Isaiah says, when we do that, we become His seed, we become children of Christ as we repent, and it is in His seed that His glory is manifest.
- How does godly sorrow work? How is it different from normal sorrow?
Godly sorrow is an interesting concept, and it is vital to our understanding of true repentance. It is not merely enough to cease sin. We must feel remorse for our actions. But where is that remorse based? Is it based in being caught or being “forced” to cease a particular activity? Or is it rooted in a sincere desire for forgiveness for one’s errors, willfully regretting having gone against the will of the Father?
“In an interview for a temple recommend for marriage, a young woman confesses some past sins to her bishop. The sins are serious enough that the bishop denies the recommend, explaining that she will have to wait until she fully repents. She is alarmed, claiming she has repented because she hasn’t repeated any of those sins for a long time. She is very upset because the invitations to the wedding and reception have already been sent out. She says she could not face all the questions and the embarrassment of a delay in her wedding plans. The bishop explains that merely stopping the sin is not complete repentance and invites her to sincerely begin (seriously, Church? Split infinitives?) the process of true repentance.”
Now I’ve never been a bishop, so it’s easy to read this and think the bishop is just being way too letter of the law with things, right? And maybe that’s the case. But he’s the judge in Israel, not me. Despite the flaws in this anecdote, that I, in my flawed mortality, see, I think there’s a fair point to be made. Was this woman more concerned with true repentance or with her wedding (see: worldly) plans? She might have been completely contrite (and I admit, were I in the same situation, I, too, would probably be exasperated by the bishop), but her priority wasn’t on truly sorting stuff out. It was repentance on her terms, not the Lord’s.
An imperfect example, certainly, but at least something to think about.
- Homework! Write out all of your negative thoughts on repentance. Seriously. This will help you with the next step. Write out all of your positive thoughts on repentance. Reflect on your own experiences, too. How is your balance of negative to positive?
The homework assignment for me was pretty easy, I’ve had great experiences with repentance, but I’m an odd duck. I actually love the breakup conversations in bad relationships where most people are terrified of them. See, I’ve been in enough bad relationships in my day to know the relief that comes after finally getting out of that crummy relationship. I know how great life becomes when you don’t live with that constant dread of having to deal with that person you don’t want to be with, but are going through the motions to avoid the drama. So having been through those, when I get to that point where I know we’re not happy, I practically run to have the hard conversations because I know life gets better. That’s my relationship with repentance. I can’t wait to get started on the process to get life back on track, even though I know it’s not easy, I’ve been on the other side of that process enough to know how great it will be.
I wanted to preface my question with a quick experience I had back in the MTC about a hundred years ago. We were doing some study and there was a “are you a good missionary” self evaluation quiz we had to take. One of the questions was “Do you repent daily?” and I said no and apparently that was not “good missionary” answers, so, being the obnoxious giant I am, I argued with my teacher. “I’m a missionary” I said, “I literally spend my entire day thinking about God and how to better serve him, I eat, sleep, and play, only as tools to let me study the gospel more, I have nothing to repent of, how am I a bad missionary for not needing to repent, I feel like I’m an uber missionary for not needing to repent!” – this was my mindset, repentance was a tool I only needed if I failed. My good teacher, Brat Bunnel patiently explained where I was missing the mark. “Elder, repentance is about improving, it’s how you access the atonement. Could you ever have studied harder? Could you have been kinder? Could you have listened to the spirit quicker? As you take the time each day to evaluate where the Lord can help you improve, He will” – That helped me turn a corner, we all have reason to repent daily, and if we lean on it as a tool.
- Do you repent daily? Are you able to not be rote in your repenting?