What is Repentance?

I’ve begun reading Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, his classic study on the Psalms of Ascents. In his chapter on Psalm 120, Peterson offers a definition on what repentance looks like. Most of my thinking regarding repentance has focused on what I need to do after I’ve committed the same sin for the umpteenth time. Peterson’s definition is much more broad. This has been swirling around in my head since I read it last week:

“Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision. It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world. And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth. Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.”


One thought on “What is Repentance?

  1. Barbara

    You know, I have thought about this and I think he leaves out a valid and vital emotional content to repentance. It’s not for nothing that Jesus said “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and that God said to Israel through the prophet Ezekiel, “You will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.” I think it is impossible to have a genuine heart change to turn away from sin and toward the Lord Jesus Christ without the emotion involved in hating that sin and in loving the Lord who paid for it. Certainly it is decisive, but I don’t think it’s either/or. It has to be both/and.

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