The Weight of Repentance
PRAY: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That we may grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus. That we may share this joy in all our lives and to those around us.
READ: Mark 9:42-50
As I write this, the sentencing hearing of Larry Nasser, the former Team USA gymnastics doctor who molested hundreds of girls is being deliberated. During this hearing, over 150 young women confronted him for the harm he had perpetrated upon them. Perhaps the most incredible of these testimonies came from Rachael Denhollander, who’s articulated one of the most incredible descriptions of the reality of sin and the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ, that I’ve seen. Addressing her abuser, she called him to true repentance, acknowledging that in doing so he would have to face the full weight of his guilt.
Too often, we take the notion of repentance too lightly. We seek forgiveness as an absolution to soothe our own conscience and personal feelings of guilt rather than being truly repulsed by our own sin and turning towards a loving and gracious God for forgiveness.
It is hard, very hard to face the wrath of the Living God. Yes, God is a holy, loving, and forgiving Lord, but he is also eternally just. And to rebel against the Living God is no small matter. Too often, we approach God, in our sin, without the acknowledgement that what we have done is truly an offense against him. “Father, please understand, that it really wasn’t all my fault. I was just…” So begins many an “explanation”. Sometimes, we claim we simply need more time. That our sin is something we are working on, rather than running from. Or even better, sometimes we just faceoff and accuse God of not being fair. “How is an eternity of wrath a just punishment for a single moment (or even lifetime) of sin?” John Piper in addressing this question points out that even human justice, shows how this works. It takes all of a few seconds to kill a man, yet we still justly and rightly will imprison a man for a lifetime for the crime.
Rachael, while offering forgiveness for Larry Nassar, also called him to true repentance, and declared her pity for what his perverse desires had turned him into, and for what the weight of his guilt would mean if his did come to true repentance. She also called for the judge to give the maximum sentence. As she put it, the punishment was not a reflection of the abuser, but a declaration of the worth of the victims. “How much is a little girl worth?” she asked the judge.
This passage in Mark 9:42-50 is sometimes labeled as “Warnings from Jesus”. These are warnings that we should heed, but to heed them we must first ascertain what we are being warned against. Three times Jesus calls for us to take hold of the things that cause us to sin and cut them off. The things he states that we might need to cut off are not evil in themselves, our hands, our feet, our eyes, but if these things cause us to sin, it would be better to be without the gift of hands, feet or eyes, than to be thrown in hell, where “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” The idea of hell and eternal punishment is truly frightening. Ultimately, hell is a reflection not of the measure of our guilt, but instead it is the answer to the question, "How much is the One, Holy and Living God worth?"
But, our story doesn’t have to end with our condemnation. We don’t have to face that punishment, because Jesus has faced it for us, because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” – John 3:16-18
Go & Do:
Watch the following to videos and consider how serious we truly take our own sin.