Repentance and Remorse both guide us in life

RemorseKierkegaard said, "Providence watches over each of us as we journey through life, providing us with two guides: Repentance and remorse.  The one calls us forward. The other calls us back."

Think of your own journey through life.  I don’t think I’ve met another human who did not have some bitter regret about some aspect of his or her life, particularly one who had lived a good long while.

But remorse is not repentance.  You can feel remorse without ever changing.  When one truly repents, though, he or she changes the mind and goes a different direction.  The reason living a penitent life can propel us forward is because repentance comes to life  — propelling us down the road of goodness — when it is pushed along by confession. 

The Bible says to confess our sins to each other so we will be healed.  Now obviously, not every sin should be confessed in every context.  If you gossip about me to say, one person, you don’t need to stand up in front of the 2,500-member church and confess it.  But you do need to confess that to someone, and maybe to me.

Confession is part of what shows you that your repentance (your desire to change) is real, and that’s good.  By confessing your sins appropriately, you move forward in life.  You start realizing that you are forgiven because you really have repented and that repentance was and is activated by confession.

Don’t confuse repentance and remorse.  As Kierkegaard says, "The one calls you forward to the good (repentance), the other (remorse) back from the evil." 

In order to make our journey through life secure, we look ahead as well as back.

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