Everyone Should Repent, Not Necessarily Before God

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In the October 17 edition of CBS “https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2021/oct/30/everyone-should-repent-not-necessarily-to-god/”60 Minutes”, former US secretary by Defenseman Robert Gates granted an interview to Anderson Cooper (cbsnews.com/news/robert-gates-60-minutes-2021-10-17/)

Gates, a long-time member of Washington’s military and intelligence elite, criticized former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden for mismanaging the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Speaking specifically of Biden, Cooper asked if the current president understood how much he had botched him.

“I’ve worked for eight presidents, Anderson, and I’ve never met a single one who ever said, ‘Well, I really blew that one up,'” Gates replied with a laugh. “Never. They just don’t do that.”

Assuming Gates is honest and correct about this, and I suspect he is, our leaders might benefit from studying the spiritual principle of repentance.

Besides, everyone big and dark would benefit from such a study. Everyone must repent.

President, janitor, clergy, heretic, Christian, Jew, Muslim, deist, agnostic, atheist – whatever. If you have a brain, let alone a soul, you should repent, for your own sake and the good of those around you.

For years the word repent reeked of all kinds of off-putting religious extremes to me. I grew up in a legalistic branch of evangelical Christianity where the emphasis was on our sins and their penalties and, therefore, on the need for repentance.

Repentance conjured in my head images of tent awakenings, sawdust floors, hymns resembling funeral songs and wiggling warnings as the flames of hell lapped around my ankles, ready. to swallow me up entirely if I didn’t publicly confess my wickedness, preferably with a lot of tears and snot.

A rebel by nature, I rejected the whole concept. Every time I heard “repent!” I clenched my teeth, clenched my fists, and closed my brain.

Fortunately, I later learned that hellfire and self-flagellation were generally not what New Testament writers had in mind when they spoke of our human need to repent. (As a Christian minister, I default to the New Testament as my authority on such matters. Your choice of authority may differ.)

The ancient Greek word translated “repentance” in English is a compound word which literally means “change of mind”.

To repent simply means to change your mind in a healthy and productive way. It smacks of nothing other than having the common sense to rethink your old assumptions on a topic, realize your mistakes, and then adjust your actions accordingly.

It’s not even necessarily a religious thing. Sometimes you have to repent before God, yes. But you may need to repent of assaulting yourself for too long. Or to your grown children for the crazy child rearing theories you followed in raising them.

Without repentance, we experience a precious little emotional, moral, or spiritual growth. To grow taller, we must be prepared to change our minds, which in turn changes our behaviors.

On one level, repenting seems like the simplest and healthiest thing in the world. To shout out loud, if we make bad choices, believe in misinformation, or enslave ourselves to destructive habits, why don’t we rush to change course?

But it turns out it’s harder than it looks, and not just for presidents. Many of us find it mortifying to admit that we are wrong, even towards ourselves, let alone others.

Repentance threatens our ego. It exposes us to attacks from our political, personal or religious enemies. It forces us to accept that we have hurt people we love. It’s hard.

We engage in all kinds of mental and moral gymnastics to avoid it. We do not change our beliefs or actions in light of new evidence; if anything, we are doubling.

Sociologists report a phenomenon called confirmation bias. They say it’s rare that we weigh the facts objectively on a sticky situation and then form an opinion, even when we pretend that’s what we’re doing. Instead, we first form our opinion and then subconsciously manipulate the evidence to match what we’ve already decided to believe.

When former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died from covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated, his body was barely cold before Democrats hailed it as proof that everyone should get vaccinated to protect immunocompromised people like Powell, and Republicans have complained that his death was proven just how worthless vaccination warrants are.

Identical event. Diametrically opposed conclusions. You have to assume that for both parties the problem was fixed before Powell even got sick. If his death caused anyone to have doubts, you wouldn’t be able to tell by listening.

Repentance, properly perceived, helps break this ridiculous cycle.

He asks each of us to become that humble person with enough moxie to admit, “You know, I used to believe this thing with all my heart. But evidence and experience have taught me. that I was wrong. I apologize. “

He’s someone with a message powerful enough to make the world a better place. Or at least the course of his own life.

Paul Prather is the pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling, Ky. You can email him at [email protected]

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