Jesus Gives Repentance and Forgiveness

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen! 

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”  (Acts 5:29-32)

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In St Peter’s sermon, above, he proclaims that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead exactly to give repentance and forgiveness of sins.  God didn’t raise Christ from the dead in order to condemn sinners, but to save them.  This Good News is proclaimed to us so that we might embrace repentance and receive from God His forgiveness.  The Gospel thus invites a response from us.   And just as some of the Fathers thought confession could consist of either listing one’s sins OR listing the things for which one is thankful (either way leads to humility, which is the goal of confession – to humble one’s self before God), so some taught that either repentance OR recognizing God’s love for us can lead to tears (whether of sorrow or joy) which put us in the right relationship with our God.

Tears and compunction, then, are caused not just by a realization of our own sinfulness, but also and much more fundamentally by a grateful and tender recognition of God’s forgiving love.  (Nikitas Stithatos,  THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 36529-30)

When we realize we have sinned against the loving God, we might even weep over what we have done.  Nikitas Stithatos says really the tears should be ones of joy more than sorrow.  Why?  Because if we weep only because we have sinned, we have not yet entered into God’s salvation.  When we agree to be disciples of Jesus, to be united to Christ, then we experience forgiveness and our tears are turned to joy as we realize the absolutely amazing love and grace of our God for us sinners.  And when we acknowledge we have been forgiven, our next response should be a willingness to forgive those who have offended us.

When you are ready to stand

In the presence of the Lord,

Let your soul wear a garment woven throughout

From the cloth of our forgiveness of others.

Otherwise your prayer will be

Of no value whatsoever.

(St John Klimakos, THE BOOK OF MYSTICAL CHAPTERS, p 43)

Proclaiming that Jesus is risen from the dead and that He offers forgiveness to all who come to Him (John 6:37), is only half the Gospel.  The other half is our embodying the Gospel in our own lives.  We acknowledge our need for God’s forgiveness, and inspired by His love, then we bring ourselves to forgive those who have sinned against us. The Gospel is about love and forgiveness – God’s for us and then ours for one another.  We will only experience His love and forgiveness if we our selves love and forgive.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)