Barriers to Repentance 2/7
by Shery Abdelmalak
God instructed us to forgive one another, but the forgiveness we have to offer others is largely dependent on the forgiveness we have for ourselves. He told us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:21). But what if we don’t love ourselves? What if we’re held back by shame and guilt for the sins of our past? If we approach sin with regret, guilt and shame, these are all we have to offer to those whom we love most.
The world teaches us to approach a problem with possible solutions. This is very simple when applied to sin. You do a sin. You know it was wrong. You try to fix it. This is not how God asked us to approach sin. You may be able to overcome a sin on your own a few times but eventually you’ll get worn down. You’ll soon realised that the higher you reach, the further you’ll fall.
As morbid as this sounds, God teaches us to approach sin in a way the world will never understand. When you are resigned to sin and you come to Him in prayer, you may fall again but there is a comfort in knowing He is always there to pick you up – a comfort in knowing that He is not just a fall back but the very core of your strength. St Paul says, “I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”(2 Cor. 12:9). If we can truly give the glory to Him, we know that our flaws and mistakes will work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Even by worldly logic, fighting sin on your own doesn’t make sense. Saint Moses the Black was one of the strongest men on Earth. The devil tried to physically fight him and so naturally, he fought back. He fought back, and was knocked down. The devil is stronger than the elites of this world. We need to shift our logic and stop trying to fight sin unarmed. There needs to be an understanding of where we truly stand in this world. If the only One stronger than the devil is God and He is able to crush Satan under your feet, how could you try to fight without Him?
Elder Mattaous says, “If someone is described as ‘humble,’ this is not, in my opinion, a characteristic of human nature, for how can dust be humble?Dust was taken from the ground, so if someone looks at dust, would he consider it to be pearls or precious stones?”
If you truly see yourself as dust, there would be no shame or guilt for sin. A curse of the modern era is oversupply. We no longer need to pray for our daily bread- it’s a given. Our lack of need extends to our lack of ability to see our own sins and even more to overcome them. We are largely self-sufficient, and so for anything we lack, we turn to ourselves before we turn to Christ.
In repentance, we turn over our weakness to Christ to be moulded as the Potter moulds a clay vessel. A clay vessel need not worry about the lumps and bumps that take a little while longer to be smoothed out, for in the hands of the Potter, all will be perfected according to His Image in due time.
“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20). He has made no mistake. Your sins are for your ultimate edification and renewal in His image. They are not for you to fix, but to recognise your need for a Saviour who will deliver from all evil and the death of sin.
Sometimes we like the idea of repentance because we think that is how God forgives us; that we need to apologise before He can forgive or that a great display of prayer and almsgiving is what sways God to forgive us. While it may help you feel better about sins of the past, a broken and a contrite heart is all He desires. Before you were even formed in your mother’s womb, God sent His Son to die on the Cross in anticipation of the sins of the world. The father of the prodigal son did not wait begrudgingly for his son’s return. No, he ran out to greet him for he who was dead was alive again, he who was lost was now found (Luke 15:32). We need to realise that after we sin, God is not angry at us, the guilt you feel comes from knowing that you should’ve done of better. God doesn’t care that you fell, He just wants to you to get back up and renew your love for Him once more.
After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times if He loved him in remembrance of the three times Peter publicly denied Him. For every time that Peter denied Him, he renewed his love for Him. Peter was overly zealous and believed in his own self. Through his repentance his zeal was renewed into godly zeal and an unshakable faith that would go on to convert the nations. Christ was imploring Peter to renew his love for him – all was forgiven but reconciliation had to be made. Peter had to put aside his guilt and shame and remember the One whom he loved more than the entrapment of sins past.
Let us pray that with every fall, we recognise and learn from our mistakes through repentance, and we are transformed according to His Love. Glory be to God, forever. Amen.