The Power of Repenting to Others

This week was different.

For the first time since March, the pandemic was not at the forefront of our minds. Coronavirus was not the headliner. Instead, protests over racial injustice have filled our streets, our news outlets, and Instagram feeds.

One of the most powerful videos shared this week on social media was that of a white man on his knees repenting of systemic and personal racism before a group of black people. As the man is praying and confessing to God the ways that he and others have harmed the black community, the black men and women are brought to tears and to their knees as well. There is something powerful that takes place when we repent to others.

Peace with Others, Peace with God

While we initially think of repentance as a private and personal action that takes place vertically, just between you and God, Jesus also tells his disciples that repentance must also take place horizontally, between neighbors:

"...if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." - Matthew 5:23-24

Before COVID-19, our discipleship group read this passage together. As we read it, we began to see that Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible to pursue a relationship with God and not be at peace with our neighbors (our teammates, classmates, friends, or family members). I would go so far to say that if you are feeling distant from God, could it possibly be that there is unresolved conflict in your life? Are there ways that you have sinned against others that you have not repented of?

Prayerfully ask yourself:
"Is there anyone that I need to apologize to for something I did or said?"
"Is there anyone I need to call that I have let down?"
"Is there anyone that I need to repent to that I did not protect?"
"Is there anyone that I am bitter towards, but have not sought to be reconciled to?"


Paul says in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Are you at peace with all men and women? If not, it could be the cause of your seeming distance from God. Yes, pray and ask God for wisdom and grace, but leave your quiet time and go. Be reconciled to your neighbor. When we are at peace with our neighbor, we are able to experience the closeness and peace of God that we all long for.

Repentance is Powerful

"...if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." -1 John 1:7

There is a difference between repenting of sin and feeling bad for making a mistake. Repentance is unique because it requires more than feeling guilty. Repentance requires humility to admit that you have done something wrong AND that you have a corrupt heart. The temptation we have when we repent to others is to justify our sin or create some sort of alibi:

"I didn't mean to..."
"this is not like me..."
"what I meant to say was..."

To say we have sinned against others and that we have no excuse goes against every impulse we have to defend our character. It is extremely difficult for us to admit that we are weak, but it's true. We desperately need grace. To repent is to turn from your sin and run to God asking him to change your heart.

Amidst the protests and racial injustice, what has become more apparent over the past week is that we are a people who are not at peace. We are not at peace because there is very little horizontal repentance. When we confess our weaknesses and sins to one another, they become more concrete and visible. Repentance is powerful because it exposes something that was once buried in darkness and brings it into the light. Confessing your sins can initially feel painful, but it ultimately illuminates what needs to be cleansed. Repentance allows the healing process to begin and restores your relationships with God and others.

Summary of how to repent to others:
  • Prayerfully ask God to expose ways you have sinned against your neighbor
  • Mourn and grieve your sin before God
  • Go, without defending yourself, and apologize for what you did (or didn't) do
  • Ask how your sin may have impacted him or her
  • Ask for forgiveness
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