I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)

Recently, life has provided me different opportunities to be with people I knew in the past and had opportunity to know again. Something repeatedly “jumped out” at me in different contexts. Some people I met again changed from the person they were when I first met them and are still changing. Some people changed and reverted back to the person they were. Some people resisted change of self years ago and continue to resist any changes in self. With some, redirection was permanent. With some, redirection was temporary. With some, redirection never occurred.

Stated in another way, some found a new direction and continued in it. Some found a new direction, but also found a convenient detour route back to the old self. Some “is” what they always were, only “is-er.”

Most (not all) who found a new direction and continue in it are people who had major discouragements or powerful temptations to revert to old ways. Some who reverted or did not consider changing did not have any visible discouragements or temptations. I constantly am amazed at people who find redirection of life a helpful friend, and those who find the same redirection a feared enemy. Some passionately grow spiritually, and some passionately refuse to grow spiritually.

To me, such observations are frightening. I have no interest in judging people—I have not lived their lives. My interest is in observing. It goes in two directions: (1) Why do people have different attitudes toward personal redirection? (2) Which kind of person am I? Do I fight the need to redirect me, or do I embrace the need to redirect me?

The essence of repentance is personal redirection. While repentance may demonstrate itself in events, repentance is not an event but an attitude that produces events. When “planted” in a person’s life, it grows until, with time, it fills the person’s life.

The attitude of repentance expresses itself in the behavior of the penitent. The person’s behavior constantly seeks to be true to the attitude. It refuses to seek self-justification.

The truth is whether you do or do not repent is not my issue. Surely, your repentance may encourage me. However, your lack of repentance never justifies me. My issue remains the same: Am I willing to redirect my life? Can I admit it when I am wrong? Can I embrace needed changes in me? Will I continuously allow my penitent attitude to reflect itself in my behavior?

The repentance of just one person causes heaven to rejoice! Does your attitude and behavior increase heaven’s joy?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 22 February 2007

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