There is much in the mind of religious people on the issue of a Christian's repentance. It has long been preached that the person repenting MUST confess ALL sins with specific detail to ALL people who are injured by the sin and to ALL who heard about it. There is a large group of people who will not give grace until all the nitty-gritty details are acknowledged, verbalized, restitution is made and reconciliation applied for. Some even demand a complete telling of ALL past sins before grace can be applied. But is that the picture we see in the Bible?
Let's look at King David's repentance in Psalm 32 and 51. Not once does he mention, "I am an adulterer" Nor does he confess, "I committed Adultery with Bathsheba." Nor did he hint at, even subtly, "I am a murderer, I murdered Uriah." He did not even verbalize to the lesser of sins as, "I am a liar. I manipulated my cousin Joab into participating in killing and covering up Uriah's murder." Furthermore, there is no evidence from Scripture he ever asked publicly for the people to forgive him. There is no plea from David to the nation, "Please forgive me." We have no record of David ever acknowledging these specific sins, nor him making restitution to Uriah's extended family, no punishment by loss of position, title, role or rule.
Some in that day and even today would claim that David was not/is not forgiven because he has not been specific enough. But is that true? Is that what the Bible teaches? Is that what God said?
No! What we have in the arena of King David's story are three things:
- God allowing the natural consequences to run their course
- The punishment removed (and placed on Christ account)
- God's restoration of David to His greater purpose (2 Sam 12).
Sometimes our quest for justice on the earthly plane causes us to demand confession to US and OUR sensibilities and not to Christ. At this point we become (by our actions) the co-redeemer and will not extend forgiveness until OUR debt has been satisfied.
Yet how do we do this and not endorse sin?
Look for true repentance which is displayed in turning from sin. Scripture gives a clear picture through John the Baptist of true repentance. "Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God" (Matthew 3:8 NLT). This does not mean we don't confront real sin. Nor does it mean we don't hold one accountable for un-repented sin. But that repentance is clearly demonstrated in life change not mere public proclamation of sin(s). True repentance will always involve a change in the way one is living their life. Some changes are radical and major, others are more subtle; but change there will be.
So let's quit demanding confession to us and start directing others to make peace with God where repentance in seen more than simply forced verbalization.
Chris Gilliam is Senior Pastor of Highlands Baptist Church in Ocala, FL