What does it mean to repent, and why do we do it?
Philip Melanchthon wrote in the Augsburg Confession that repentance has “two sides, a putting to death and a raising to life,” which he also called “contrition and faith.” Martin Luther argued fervently that it is not the quality of human contrition – our being “sorry enough” – that ensured God’s forgiveness. God gives grace freely. Yet Luther recognized that repentance leads us to turn to contrition and a new way of being, like the psalmist who cries, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
When Jesus and John the Baptist invite their listeners to “repent,” it does not mean that we need to make our way closer to a God who is distant, separated or far off, but the opposite: The kingdom of God has come near. When we turn back to God, we find an all-encompassing love that has never left us alone, not for an instant – so there is nothing to fear in repentance.
This message is excerpted from the Bible study “Turn, turn, turn: A time for faithful repentance” by Meghan Johnston Aelabouni in the September 2018 Gather magazine. Today is the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. Today we commemorate the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, 1530; and Philipp Melanchthon, renewer of the church, 1560.
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