But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
When I was a girl, my mother taught me that to apologize meant I intended not to make the same mistake again. Perhaps, without realizing it, my mom instilled in me from a young age the meaning of repentance. To repent means to turn away from and walk in a new direction.
I spend a significant amount of time mediating conflict. I am always struck by the power of a genuine apology and the temptation of a false one. When we have harmed someone, we’re often tempted to, even in our apology, place the blame on the other for feeling hurt rather than admitting we’ve done something hurtful.
A genuine apology, however, takes ownership and stops there. It admits a wrong without a need to justify, excuse, or share blame. Repentance admits we’ve made a mistake and states our intention to not make the same mistake again.
We bear fruit worthy of repentance when, in light of our acknowledgment of wrong, we live in transformed ways. Our lives reflect our repentance.
In this season of Lent, in which we are invited to consider what we have done and what we have left undone, I also invite you to pay attention to the ways you say I’m sorry. Are our apologies laden with justification and blame sharing? Or do they own that we too are capable of making mistakes for which we need, and receive, forgiveness?
In light of our repentance, do we bear fruit? Fruit that bursts forth from the freedom we find in forgiveness and the intention to live lives of grace both given and received? In these 40 days may the Spirit bring to mind opportunities for transformation and joy in the truth that in Christ we are freely forgiven.
Please pray with me:
Spirit of the living God, give us eyes to see our faults, the courage to say "I'm sorry," as needed, and the tenacity to live lives that bear fruit worthy of repentance.