(this Bible study is part 2 of a series on repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation)
1. Read a few of the following passages: Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15, Mark 6:12, Luke 3:3, Luke 5:32, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, and Acts 3:19.
2. Repentance seems to be central to Jesus' proclamation and the Christian faith. How would you define "repentance"? Here's some ways others define repentance: turning around, feeling sorry, changing one's heart, walking a new direction, coming to the light, asking for peace, and returning to God.
3. Repentance seems to mean changing somehow. Changing isn't always easy. Think of times when you've sinned in your life. When is it easy to repent? When is it hard to repent? What do you think the difference was?
4. Read Romans 2:4 , Acts 11:18, and Luke 15:7. Repentance is something God wants us to do, something God gives us as a gift, and something that brings God joy when it happens. Why do you think repentance is so important to God?
5. Read Matthew 3:8. John tells us to bear fruits worthy of repentance. What are the signs and things in our lives that might signal that repentance has happened? In other words, if we really repent, how will things in our lives change?
6. Now that you've thought deeply about repentance, what are the steps you might take in order to truly repent?
Desmond Tutu has developed a Fourfold Path to Repentance:
1. Telling the truth and admitting the wrong (I messed up)
2. Witnessing the anguish and apologizing (I'm sorry)
3. Asking for forgiveness and making amends (How can I fix this? Will you forgive me?)
4. Renewing or releasing the relationship (a hug, sharing ice cream, playing together, etc.)
Family / Household Activity
To learn repentance, we need a safe place to practice it. Make a pact between each other that for 1 week no one will be punished for anything they do wrong to each other as long as they are willing to repent. When you need to repent, find a neutral party (someone in the house other than the person you need to repent to) who can help the you walk Desmond Tutu's Fourfold Path.
Warning: Repentance is about what I need to do, not something to force down others' throats. Use this as an opportunity to help each other, not to continually judge each other. Shaming people by constantly pointing out their failures is still a type of punishment.
And remember: the flip side of repentance is forgiveness.
On the streets or in the news, you'll often see pictures of people holding signs that say "Repent, the End is Near" or "Repent or Perish" or "Repent and Believe or Go To Hell". These signs pull on themes from Scripture, but they seem to get Jesus' method of helping sinners repent wrong.
Read Luke 5:27-32 and Luke 15. If you needed to make a sign that helped people understand Jesus' approach to repentance, what would you put on it?