Who am I to determine the order of repentance?
Repentance has become an ugly word. It has been hijacked by holiness preachers and used as a threat and as a weapon. It has been said in judgmental ways under the guise of “a love for truth” and has put an offensive taste in the mouth of those inside & outside the church. I’ve heard many preachers accuse a drifting American church that they are “so dull they can’t stand to be called to repentance”. I’m sure it’s true for some that they want to play games with God and simply have their cake and eat it too, fully aware of what they are doing. But I’m not sure we can blame people, especially unbelievers, for balking at the word “repentance” when we have failed to say it with eyes full of fierce love and hearts steadfast on God’s best for them. We’ve called people to repentance for our own comfort rather than for their good.
And because the word “repent” has acquired such unbiblical connotations (through no fault of the Bible), I find myself not using the word “repentance”, but rather it’s meaning much more often. I tell people about how God has convinced me over time, how He has changed the way I think about people and my own behavior, which has resulted in a “turning around”. This is repentance.
And because I understand that I don’t simply just “choose to repent” one day and that’s it’s more because of God’s consistent convincing that His ways bring more life to my soul than my own ways, I surrender the idea that I have the right to demand repentance in others. I also keep in mind that repentance is a gift to be received and responded to more than it is a work to be achieved, or a command to be obeyed (I’ve also written about repentance in insights #12 Engage Like Jesus & #21 Level The Playing Field).
When I think about repentance in this way, I realize how out of step preachers of the last several decades have been with the heart of Christ. To think you can call an entire (LGBT) community to repentance when our Christian predecessors have built literally no relationship with them for decades seems mind boggling arrogant and shows a massive misunderstanding of how God works in every individual soul by building trust, staying faithful, loving intensely, giving grace, and patiently convincing us all that His ways are not just higher but better and more for our good than we could have ever anticipated or hoped.
People often ask what convinced me to surrender my sexuality to Christ, despite him not changing my orientation. They ask as if there’s a secret truth or special verse that did a magic trick in my heart, mind, and soul. What convinced me is the same thing that convinces you, my friend – God’s goodness. I had walked with Him long enough to be convinced that He could be trusted to fill my soul and satisfy my heart even if I gave him the very thing I thought would fulfill me most and came the most natural to me.
So can you practice patience by surrendering your ideas of what others should repent of next? I know I personally have enough things that God is trying to change my mind about without me getting huffy about my neighbor’s lack of complete surrender. I think it’s enough for us all to encourage and remind one another that the God whose intent it is to father us all can be trusted with the most precious of things to us, including our needs for relationship and intimacy.
This blog is one in a series of 30+ tips for relational effectiveness with LGBT people. Find the condensed list HERE. These relational tips are from a handout acquired from “Lead Them Home”, a Boston based ministry that equips the church on LGBT issues. These blogs have been expounded upon with permission.
These tips, along with numerous other insights, are found in an excellent resource called “Guiding Families” available HERE.