While many people think confession is the same as repentance, they are distinct, though inextricably linked. Confession is the act of recognizing you are wrong and a change of course is needed. Repentance is turning around and going in the right direction. True confession leads to accompanying repentance. Not to cut the distinction too finely, but often the practice of confession is engaged through our emotions in prayer with God and conversation with others, involving the sincere acknowledgment of sin. Meanwhile, repentance involves engaging our minds and wills to do differently moving forward.
If the heart is not softened and prepared for repentance by carrying our sins before God in confession, we will try to solve the problem in our own self-effort rather than through God’s empowering grace. (Also connected is the practice of lament.) As the unique steps in a dance complete the entire elegant movement, so confession, repentance, and lament build upon one another to form a series of practices that cultivate a heart of contrition that pleases God.
“Real repentance involves resolving to take steps toward new behaviors.”
Real repentance involves resolving to take steps toward new behaviors. There are probably unconscious ways you have ungodly preferences for your own race and culture. It is not enough to become aware of this and confess it. You also need to begin to untangle the thought habits, impulses, and biases at the root of your racial partiality.
One area where this is true of me is in my take charge mentality. I have struggled with often trying to guide a conversationor action in the direction I think it needs to go, regardless ofwhether or not that is my job. In doing so, I neglect to value theleadership skills and opinions of others. I have found that this tendencyis tied to my being a well-educated, affluent, White male,with a leadership gift and an outgoing personality. Certainly, allthose things contribute, but it doesn’t make that impulse holy orentirely wicked. So who can help me sort this out? Only the HolySpirit.
When I take questions to the Word and prayer, I discoverthat my desire to be helpful is being perverted by my assumptionthat I need to take charge, as if I am God’s gift to the team. Takenote, the unraveling of this mentality had to start with genuineawareness and confession—first that my arrogance was wrong andthen that my repentance needed to instill within me a desire to bequick to listen and slow to speak, to ask questions before posingsolutions, and to ask if my input is wanted before assuming it is needed. Am I fully healed of this vulnerability? Certainly not, butI have come a long way. Undoubtedly, these efforts at true repentancehave made me a better leader, but most importantly a betterChristian. In this space, I find myself being conformed to thehumility, meekness, and gentleness I see in Jesus, a Person whoalways knew the right answer in every situation yet often startedHis conversations with a question.
Consider an area you know God has been inviting you to engage in with greater humility and accountability. Ask yourself, “What concrete steps can I take to respond to God’s invitation?” And let God lead you into repentance.
by Josh Clemons and Hazen Stevens
Before you can do what’s right, you have to see what’s right. When it comes to racial reconciliation, we often...
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