17 January 2024

Repentance sounds a bit stuffy and almost like a threat. But that is not what Jesus Christ wants. ‌Here is what repentance really means, how it works, and what it is good for.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This Bible passage from Luke 19: 10 was the basis of a divine service on 8 December 2023 in Nampula in Mozambique.

“Who are these lost ones?” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider asked and clarified: “All human beings. Human beings have been lost since the fall into sin. They are separated from God. They are no longer able to have fellowship with God because God is perfect. And we are poor human beings who are anything but perfect.”

A completely different type of message

“And that is why the Son of God came to earth to save those who are lost.” Jesus Christ Himself explained this in parables. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin stress the effort and struggle the Lord took upon Himself to save human beings. And the parable of the prodigal son shows how important it is that we repent in order to be saved.

Before Jesus, others had already called on the people to repent. Like the prophets in the Old Testament: “Repent. Change your mind. Come back to God, do His will, and God will save you,” is how the Chief Apostle formulated it. Or like John the Baptist: “Repent! Otherwise God will punish you.”

But Jesus chose a completely different path. “His way of motivating people to repent and come back to God was completely different.”

Love changes a person

The incident from which the Bible text is taken explains this: “It is the story of Zacchaeus.” When Jesus was passing through Jericho, a man named Zacchaeus wanted to see Him. But because he was short he could not see over the crowd that had gathered at the side of the road, and they would not let him through. The people despised the tax collector because he collected money for the Roman occupiers and was considered to be corrupt.

“Jesus did not know him. They had never met before,” the Chief Apostle said. “There were probably thousands of people. But Jesus saw this one and called him by name.” In fact, he said: “Zacchaeus, come down, for today I want to stay at your house. I want to have fellowship with you.”

“Jesus did not need to lecture him. He simply showed him His love,” the Chief Apostle pointed out. “And when Zacchaeus realised that he was loved by Jesus Christ, he changed his mind and changed his life.”

Passing on God’s love

That is exactly what God does for us. The Holy Spirit does not threaten us with divine punishment. He leads us into the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And the more we understand the love of Jesus Christ, the more we become aware of the glory of Jesus Christ, the more we realise that we need to change.

“But don’t forget, God wants all human beings to be saved. He therefore also wants our neighbour to be saved.” And in the same way: “It is not our task to judge and punish our neighbour.” In fact, “Jesus Christ wants us to love our neighbour as He loves him or her so that they too can experience the love of Jesus Christ.”

The Chief Apostle drew the following conclusion: God wants all human beings to be saved. To be saved, human beings must turn back to God. Christ admonishes us to repent by showing us His love. We can contribute to the redemption of others by loving our neighbour as Jesus loves him or her.