June 12 Insights Blog, Church of the Resurrection
Matthew 4: 17 From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!”
I’m sensing an increasing awakening for many white Americans. This is a powerful historical moment when the Spirit of God is calling us to be part of God’s movement in the world toward justice and peace. We follow Jesus’ call to change our hearts and lives now, not in order to deserve getting some reward when we die, but in order to participate in what God is doing right now in the world.
Repentance is one form of participation in God’s life. Repentance does not mean feeling sorry for what we’ve done. It is not a passive state of regret or guilt. It is an active state of change. It is changing our hearts and lives. It means something closer to transformation.
To be sure, repentance may begin with genuine regret or feeling sorry. The shock waves that hit us when we awaken to the ways we have hurt others set us on the path of change. But this is not inevitable. Regret or guilt alone will not lead to transformation. In fact, the opposite can happen. When we get stuck in regret, shame or guilt, it leads to defensiveness and bitterness. Bitterness and fear can never produce the fruits of the Spirit.
So what helps us move toward the transformation of heart and life Jesus is talking about? We get unstuck when we focus on our desire for the things God desires, a longing for a life of love and wholeness, for others as well as for ourselves. Jesus’ vision of the kin-dom of God. Reaching for that, walking toward it, gets us moving toward change. As our hearts strain toward this vision of justice and peace, we experience true repentance, real change.
This is why it’s so important for white people today to not get stuck in shame, guilt and fear. We must seek true repentance as scales fall from our eyes to the deep, systemic racism in which we all live. Guilt alone will keep us defensive and fragile, unable to participate creatively in what God is doing toward justice.
Repentance calls us to root ourselves in our deep, holy desires for what can be, for the world God envisioned at creation, shalom. These longings energize us to step out, get on board with what God is up to right now in America, calling out systemic, racial injustice. When you see acts of violence or hear hateful speech, turn your heart toward God’s desires for us all. Put your energy there.
The good news is that this transformation is not something we have to summon all on our own. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, the Spirit that inspires and offers new life in this work of repentance. May it bear fruit that will last! we have to summon all on our own. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, the Spirit that inspires and offers new life in this work of repentance. May it bear fruit that will last!