Why Is Repentance Repulsive?

"I've learned so much from my mistakes, I think I'll make more" is a popular phrase that has appeared on many memes, tweets, timelines and even things like magnets, pins, and other items we can purchase. This seemingly harmless saying is actually very harmful. Most of us have read it someplace, and often, our initial response is to laugh, feel better about the genuine mistakes we've made and sadly, even the purposeful sins we've committed against our holy, kind, and gracious Father God. This is where it gets dangerous.

Do we all make mistakes? Absolutely! To err is human, right? Unfortunately, to sin is human too. And we all do it more than we'd like to admit...unless of course, a flighty little phrase like this one comes along and feeds our flesh the lies it desires—we can excuse our sins without repentance—and without a Savior.

We continually come up with new ways to make ourselves and others feel better about our sins rather than do what God says; repent. We say things like, "No one's perfect", "God knows my heart", "I'll ask for forgiveness later", and my all time least favorite, "Oh, no need to ask for forgiveness, we all do ______." That last one makes us all sound so holy and full of grace and mercy, doesn't it? But it's not holy, gracious or merciful. It's just our old, sin-filled, depraved heart and mind excusing the sin of others so we feel justified when we do the same.

I can't tell you how many times I've repented and asked for forgiveness for gossiping, being unkind, being thoughtless, responding in pride, being self-centered and...well, you get the picture (Rom 7:21-24). Most times, rather than receive the forgiveness I've requested, I get "No need to ask for forgiveness, this is a time for grace." What?! That's not grace, that's excusing my sin. And trust me, I don't need help making excuses for my sins. I'm already good at that. What I need is encouragement not to sin and not to make excuses when I do, but repent to God, then to those who've been injured by my sin. What I need is accountability. And that's what you need too.

Do we need to repent for mistakes? No, because mistakes aren't sins. For example, if I misquote someone because I remembered something incorrectly or give you wrong directions because I forgot to include a necessary turn, I'm not sinning, I'm simply human and can't do anything "perfectly". However, if I misquote someone on purpose, adding or subtracting what they said and adding my own twist in order to make my point, then that's manipulation (which is a sin). If I purposefully give you the wrong directions so you're late because I know it'll make you look or feel bad, that's a sin. Sometimes discerning what is and isn't a sin can be difficult for onlookers, but it's not for God and shouldn't be for those who are examining their hearts in the light of God's Word.

Motives (which can't be seen) often distinguish between sins and honest mistakes. But gossiping, being unkind, thoughtlessness, responding in pride and being self-centered are obvious sins many of us entertain, and excuse in others; as well as ourselves.

"Bear fruit in keeping with repentance...Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life."
~Matthew 3:8; Romans 2:4, 6:22 (ESV)

Repentance is a gift from God that leads the lost to saving faith, and provides continual sanctification for the saints, yet, much like unbelievers, we children of God, still find repentance repulsive. We call evil good and good evil when we accuse someone of being judgmental and unloving when they love us enough to pierce our sin-filled flesh with the Word of God and shine His brilliant light on our sins.

The most unfortunate part about our lack of desire to bear the fruit of repentance is that we keep ourselves from the peaceful fruit of righteousness that God works in all who are trained by His loving discipline. Since we can freely come to God confident He will forgive our sins (Heb 4:16), knowing we will possibly be disciplined but not punished (Heb 12:10, 1 Jn 4:18); why don't we daily, carry our crosses like Jesus commanded and kill the sin in our flesh?

Let us love and obey all that Christ has commanded and enabled us to do by the power of His Holy Spirit. Let us live in the freedom Christ died to give us. Let us stop laughing at our sins and the sins of others. Rather, let us weep and mourn over them and pray for God's forgiveness and for opportunities to repent to all we've sinned against and injured. Let us not say what the world says, "I've learned so much from my mistakes, I think I'll make more". Rather, let us say what only the children of God are free to proclaim with joy, "I've learned so much from my past sins, I'm encouraged I will sin less."