“And even now,’ utters the LORD,
‘return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and lamentation!
Rend your hearts and not your garments!
Return to the LORD, your God,
For he is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abundant in mercy,
And he grieves over wickedness.”
In addition to condoning sin when we take someone’s repentance lightly, we also minimize both their sin and their repentance. When we simply say, “don’t worry about it,” we convey to the person who is repenting of sin that repentance is not that big a deal. And, indeed, just the opposite is true. True repentance is hard work and requires someone to set aside their pride and humble themselves before another. True repentance also requires a change of lifestyle—a turning away from the sin that was done—and when you minimize the sin this way, you minimize their change of heart and life.
True repentance is not simply saying “I’m sorry” and moving on with life, but true repentance requires a turning around of lifestyle. If we were going to take a church trip from Mississippi to Florida, and we all climbed aboard the church bus with me driving. If we found, after we were on the road for a while, that we had just crossed the Mississippi river into Louisiana, there would be a problem. As the driver of the church bus, it would not do for me to simply say, “Whoops, I’m sorry” and keep on traveling toward Texas on Route 20. I would need to find the next exit and turn the bus around, putting it on the road going East and not West. Repentance is the same way. It takes work and commitment. It expects you to grieve over your sin and seek to change the direction that your life is going. There is a brokenness that takes place as part of repentance that drives you to change. That brokenness is the work of the Holy Spirit, and when you make light of a person’s repentance by minimizing it, you also make light of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Friends, God calls us to himself as broken and humbled sinners with nothing to our account that can be offered. Yet, God does not leave us broken down, but begins rebuilding us that we might stand as a mark of his glory to the world. If God took us as broken down sinners and sought to build us up (indeed, He is still doing that building), then we ought to do the same and seek to build up those who come to us in repentance for things that they have done that have offended us.