“Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Genuine, heart-felt repentance is tough to do. It requires a couple of things that we are pretty loathe to give. It requires first a recognition that we have done something that was not right. It was wrong, not in an abstract way, but in a way that was deeply personal for us and also for the other people who were affected by it. This is tough in and of itself. Often, when we have gotten caught doing something wrong we recognize the abstract, but not the personal. We are inconvenienced by the attention to our misdeeds, but not truly sorry we did it. This is the politician’s apology. In other words, we are more sorry that we got caught than that we did whatever it was we have been caught doing.
In these situations we are not much inclined toward repentance. We often settle for offering a half-hearted apology in which we are sorry the other person was hurt by what we did, but not so much that we did it in the first place. And the reason we are not so sorry for doing it in the first place is because we did it intentionally and will do it again if given the chance.
This brings us to the other thing repentance requires: A determined intention to not do whatever it was again. The very idea of repentance is that we turn from whatever it was we were doing and toward something new. We turn from the wrong and to the right. Without this intention, repentance hasn’t really happened. There has only been an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. And an acknowledgement that is mostly insincere at that.
The truth is, sin brings shame. It brings shame because we have done the wrong thing. Getting to a place of genuine repentance is going to take us to the point of experiencing that shame in all its pain and ugliness. We have to walk through it so that we can see the full breadth of our sin. But, this shame is not the final stop. It is a way station on the road to restoration and life. When we turn and face the music like the prodigal son did, we will be rewarded with the grace and restoration that he was as well. But, we can’t get those without the repentance. That comes first.
Let us make what Jeremiah says here our own cry. Let us cry out with our hands lifted high, reaching for the Father who loves us and who desires to be in a relationship with us. Let us cry that we are hopeless sinners, ashamed of who we are and what we’ve done. Let us own up to our sin and, with hate for it in our hearts, receive the Spirit who enables us to walk away from it and not look back. Let us repent so we can be made whole.