Sin and Repentance: Doing the Right Thing No Matter What
The season of Lent is positioned in the church calendar to help us return to our proper center, as we prepare to celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world – the death and resurrection of Jesus. As such, one of the primary messages of the Lenten season is repentance. Friday's have a special place in the season as we honor the day of our redemption. This Friday, we are reminded of our need for repentance.
The longer I live, the closer I lean into the life of Jesus, the more I realize my need to repent. But what does it mean to repent? Repentance is never easy; we must admit we are wrong. We must admit that we need help to do the right thing.
What does it mean to do the right thing? How do we know what is right and what is wrong? And how can we repent when we fall short of God's standards?
These are some of the questions that many Christians struggle with, especially in a world that seems to have lost its moral compass. And, as we struggle with such things, often we end up frustrated and not doing anything about our need for repentance. But God has not left us without guidance. He has given us His word, His Spirit, and His grace to help us live according to His will, to help us do the right thing.
One of the passages that can help us understand God's perspective on sin and repentance is Ezekiel chapter 33. In this chapter, God reminds Ezekiel of his role as a watchman for the house of Israel. A watchman was someone who stood on the city wall and warned the people of any approaching danger. If he saw an enemy coming, he had to blow a trumpet and alert the people. If he failed to do so, he would be held accountable for their blood.
Ezekiel's job was similar, but instead of warning about physical enemies, he had to warn about spiritual ones. He had to proclaim God's message of judgment and mercy to a rebellious nation that had turned away from Him. He had to call them to repentance and faith, or else they would face God's wrath.
God also makes it clear that each person is responsible for their own actions. He says in verse 11:
"As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live."
He also says in verse 18:
"When a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, they will die for it; and when a wicked person turns from their wickedness and does what is just and right, they will live by doing so."
This shows us that God is not unfair or unjust. He does not punish, or reward people based on their past deeds, but on their present choices. He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He gives everyone an opportunity to change their ways and receive His forgiveness.
But what does repentance mean? It means more than just feeling sorry for our sins or saying sorry to God. It means turning away from our sins and turning toward God. It means changing our mind, our heart, and our behavior. It means aligning ourselves with God's will and purpose.
And what does doing the right thing mean? It means obeying God's commands and following His example. It means loving Him with all our being and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). It means seeking His kingdom and His righteousness above all else (Matthew 6:33).
Doing the right thing is not always easy or popular. Sometimes it may cost us our reputation, our relationships, or even our lives. But it is always worth it in the end. As Martin Luther King Jr., a famous civil rights leader who fought against injustice and oppression said:
"The time is always right to do what is right."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
May we always remember this truth and act accordingly.
Shalom for a holy Lent,
Prayer: Father, help me to see my need for repentance no matter what the cost to me personally. Help me to see the real value of Your love for me, even when I make wrong choices, and strengthen me by your grace to make better ones, as I learn from my mistakes, learning to live in the beauty of Your will for my life. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.