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Submitted By songbird1398
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Repentance: How to Figure It

This week is mid-terms week at Creighton University and everyone is scrambling between classes to get that last hour of studying in before the test or trying to put the finishing touches on their papers before the deadline. As I’m walking down the mall, I notice my friend Rae.
“Hey Rae!” I yelled.
“Hey girl. How are midterms going for you?” she asked.
“Oh, they’re treating me well now since I just finished my last one. How about you?” I replied. Rae’s facial expression reeked of uncertainty. I could tell she was worried about her midterm. “I take it you’re not too excited about this one huh?”
She looked down with glazed over eyes and replied, “Na, I have an Art midterm due Friday and I have yet to start. I guess I don’t know where or how to begin.” Assuming she’s talking about a paper I confidently replied, “Writing a paper can be tricky. It’s always the introduction that seems to be the hardest. What I do is start with the body; when I feel more comfortable, I go back to the intro and it usually comes easier.” She looked at me with the same facial expression and said, “It’s not a paper. This happens to be my Art final and although painting is piece of cake, I can’t just paint anything. Professor James wants us to paint an illustration of an abstract idea. That abstract idea happens to be “repentance”. I have no idea what that means so how do you expect me to illustrate that in a painting?” It was quite obvious that Rae was very frustrated so I offered to help her out since I was finished for the week. “Let’s go get lunch, and I’ll help you after. I happened to get an “A” in all of my Theology classes and of course my father is a Pastor, so if all else fails, we can go to him and he can explain it even better than I can. After lunch, Rae and I went back to my place and started looking in the dictionary for the definition of “repentance”. The first dictionary we used stated, repentance was, “Deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrong doing, or the like”. Another definition it provided was “Regret for any past action”. Rae began to look even more confused so I offered to look at another dictionary.
“In Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of ‘repentance’ is, ‘The action or process of repenting especially for misdeeds or moral shortcomings’” I said. “ I think that’s a good one. With all these definitions, we clearly see that when you repent, you obviously feel bad about something you’ve done. Clearly, it’s implied that what ever you’re repenting for was and immoral action”.
Rae agreed and started to speak on all the negative feelings associated with repentance. She noticed that not one of the definitions stated anything positive. With this newly found information, she started to think about how this could translate to her painting. “I’m guessing that whatever I paint, I will have to show that someone or something is sorry for whatever they’ve done and would like to be forgiven”. “And how are you going to do that? I’m sure Professor James would love for you to do the obvious and use little sad faces.” I joked.
She looked at me in disgust and replied, “This is not the time Bri, focus. It’s abstract remember? I can use dark dreary colors and maybe rain or something to depict the idea of ‘repentance’” And with that being said, we got back to work.
“Oh wait!” I exclaimed, “I just remembered. In Theology, we’ve been talking about repentance lately. I don’t understand why the light bulb didn’t turn on sooner! It’s used in the biblical sense but I’m sure it can still help.”
“What Theology class are you talking about Bri?” She asked.
“ Um, it’s Theology 207: Reading the New Testament. Fr. Phil Amidon teaches it and so far I haven’t fallen asleep in his class so he must be doing something right”, I said laughing at myself
Rae looked at me and replied with a smile, “If we’re going to be learning about repencance, that is not the class for me. This word is giving me a headache! Thanks for the heads up. Now I know what Theology class not to take next semester.” “No no no.”, I interrupted. “It’s really interesting actually. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it especially, since it doesn’t really portray the same negative feeling like the definition in the dictionary does. It’s found throughout the New Testament and feelings connected with repentance are way different. “You’ve got to be kidding me, I doubt the New Testament will be able to help me understand this”, Rae replied. “I won’t believe it unless I see it for myself.” I went to my room, grabbed my Bible and began to read the story about the lost sheep. In the story, tax collectors and “sinner” sat around to hear Jesus speak about a man with a hundred sheep. One day he loses one of those sheep and leaves the ninety-nine in an open field and goes to look for the one lost. When he finds the sheep, he immediately rejoices and goes home. “This story is great depiction on how repenting is a positive thing.” I said. “How did you get that out of this story?” Rae asked. I returned to the Bible and continued reading, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).
“Does that make sense?” I asked?
“Yes”, she replied. “But I’m kind of confused on a couple of things now. I don’t get how the sheep and the man are related to the sinner and the people rejoicing in heaven.” “You’re right. That can be a little confusing. The one lost sheep represents the sinner. The term “lost” can be said that he has “lost his way” or is “lost” because he isn’t living in the way of Christ and has done some wrongdoing. The man who has lost his sheep on the other hand, represents the person who has been wrongly treated, and eventually forgives the sinner after the sinner repents. This in turn is a happy story because this verse clearly states that when that one sinner repents, everyone in heaven will be happier for him rather than for the righteous people who don’t need to repent because he is trying to change. If you incorporate the definition about regret, then you can see that the sinner felt sorry for what he had done and wanted to be forgiven,” I explained.
"That makes no sense at all” Rae answered. How does this represent repentance? He didn’t even say anything, which means he didn’t say or realize he was wrong. If he didn’t realize he was wrong, he couldn’t feel bad for doing it. You’re Bible has a typo! I need for you to get a new one because clearly, this one is not doing its job.”
I looked at her rather surprised. She seemed to get more and more aggravated. I understand where she’s coming from because the content in the Bible is not easy to understand if you don’t know how to interpret it. I continued to read in hopes of finding another example.
“Here’s another one Rae, maybe this one will make more sense. There is a story about a lost coin in the Bible. Basically, a woman has about ten silver coins and loses one of those coins. She lights a match, sweeps, and looks everywhere she can for the coin that she has lost. After searching and searching, she finally finds it. She calls everyone she knows to tell them to rejoice with her because she’s found her lost coin. The Bible says that when she calls her friends, ‘…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents’ (Luke 15:10). This story is quite similar to the previous one but with this one, the lost coin represents the “sinner” and the women represent the one that forgave the sinner. Again the angels are happy because the coin, or sinner is repenting and trying to change. Do you get it now?” I asked.
She looked at me even more puzzled than ever and replied, “No I don’t get it. How does a coin repent and why do the angels get so worked up over repenting coins and sheep? Whoever wrote this Bible is bananas. Is there anything in this Bible that talks about repentance where the one ‘repenting’ isn’t an animal or inanimate object? Nothing makes sense, and I’m never going to finish this midterm. I’ll fail art class and have to drop out of school. My life is now ruined! Thank you Bri!
Rae went one and on getting herself more worked up than needed. I sat there quietly and waited for her to finish venting. “Are you finished?” I calmly asked.
“Yes, I’m done”, she said.
“First of all, you need to calm down. You are dragging everything out. You are not going to fail your midterm nor art class, drop out of school, and your life is not ruined. Take a chill pill because you are starting to stress me out. Apparently, those examples are above your head so I’m going to try this one.
I opened my Bible and continued to read. I started with the eleventh verse of Luke Chapter 15. “This story is a parable of the Lost Son. There is a man with two sons. The younger of the two sons, asks his father to give him his inheritance right away. So, his father divided his property between the two sons and as soon as the younger one gets his share, he leaves for a distant country. This son is very irresponsible and wastes all his money but the worst part of all is that this distant town is now in the middle of a famine. When he notices that he is now poor, he agrees to work the fields of a man and feed slop to the pigs. The young son is so hungry that he could eat the corncob in the pig slop but unfortunately, no one would give him any. He then realizes that he doesn’t have to deal with this and thinks about all of the workers who work for his father and how everyday, they get to sit down and eat three meals. They’re way better off than he is because right now he is starving to death. The young son decided that he was going to go home, tell is father he has sinned against both his father and God, and ask for forgiveness. Hopefully, his father will hire him as a worker and he can enjoy the three meals a day just like the others.
When he was not too far from home, his father saw him. They ran towards each other and embraced. The young son started speaking saying ‘Father I’ve sinned against you and God. Please forgive me.’ The father didn’t want to hear any of it and quickly yelled for the servants to bring him a robe and sandals. He put a ring on his son’s finger and they ate an incredible feast. The older brother seemed to be quite upset and jealous of the fact that he has stayed with his father and was far better of a son than his younger brother yet, his father has never thrown a party for him and his friends. His father replies, ‘My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’ (Luke 15:31)”.
“Now I’m just going to let you sit there and marinate on that”, I said jokingly.
Rae began to crack a smile and all of a sudden she jumped out of her seat and screamed at the top of her lungs, “I’ve got it! I really do understand!”
“Do you now?” I asked. “How do I know you’re not just saying that to shut me up? If you know the answer to these questions, then you truly understand.”
“Hit me with your best shot!”, She dared me.
I smiled and tried to come up with good questions that would truly challenge her understanding. Finally, I spoke, “If you really understand, you’ll be able to tell me who the younger son and father represent, and how do they feel throughout the story? And then, the older son is represented by who, and who does he feel at the end of the story?”
Rae paused for a bit, and proceeded to answer:
“Ok, the younger son represents the “lost” one. He is the person who did the wrongdoing by being arrogant and leaving with all of his inheritance. When he left, he felt as if he could do it all by himself and that he was entitled to everything he received. When he realized that everything he had was now gone and that he was now poor, he felt ashamed for how he treated his family and for his arrogant attitude. When he came back home, he repented and asked for forgiveness because he knew he was in the wrong.
The father on the other hand, represents the forgiving one or the person who is being repented to. When his son asked him for his [his son’s] inheritance, he gave it to him not realizing that his son was soon to leave. When he did leave for a distant land, the father was so sad and worried. As time went on, he began to believe that his son was now dead. But, when the young son returned home and repented, the father immediately forgave him and wanted to celebrate. He was just happy to know that his son was yet alive and back home in his embrace.
Now the older son is a bit trickier. I believe that he represents the person who has been doing right all along. Like in that confusing story about the sheep, the older son represents the ninety-nine sheep that were safe and sound. Or, with the story about the lost coin, the son would represent the nine coins that the women still had. In this story though, the older son feels somewhat angry or jealous when the younger son returns because he has been with his father all this time, has never even thought to leave and has always been faithful but despite all of that, he has never received any type of appreciation such as the party that was thrown in his brother’s honor upon his return.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “ You really do get it. You really hit it on the head. I honestly wasn’t expecting you to understand the older brother and who he represents, but you sure did fool me.” Rae started to smile to herself; she was surprised at how this story and the stories of the coin and lost sheep were so similar. She realized that these stories were basically all the same. With an embarrassed smile, she hit me on the arm and said, “Why didn’t you just start with this story? How do you expect me to get an understanding of what repentance means if you’re using goats and pennies as examples?” We both looked at each other and broke out in laughter!
“Wait,” Rae said as she interrupted our moment. Maybe this isn’t the same kind of repentance we were looking at in the first place. It has definitely changed to a more happy feeling. I understand what you were saying earlier about how it’s a more positive aspect. For them to rejoice, that proves that it’s a happier feeling rather than a sad one we saw from reading out of the dictionary.
But, I’m still kind of confused. Why would Jesus use those two shorter stories first? That doesn’t really make sense to me. As you could see I was struggling after we read those. But when you read the story about the lost boy, it began to make sense. It all tied in. I think he included those stories to build suspense or something. What do you think Bri?” she asked.
“Well, I don’t know if it builds suspense but that’s a good try. Maybe Jesus included the two shorter parables to make a point to his audience. According to Luke 15: 1, Jesus was speaking to tax collectors and sinners. He wanted to make the point—especially to his audience—that no matter how lost they were, they could always be found. It was often thought that the worse the sins are, the less chance there is to be forgiven but Jesus made sure to point out that it didn’t matter what they had done; he could still rescue them. He also wanted to point out that he would always forgive them even if they were “lost” because of someone else. In the stories of the lost coin and lost sheep, both were lost because of someone else’s carelessness yet, the coin and sheep were still found and because they were found, people rejoiced.
“Do you think there’s another story in the Bible that’s more realistic. That would probably be beneficial. “ Rae asked.
I flipped the pages of the Bible and opened to Luke 19. I began reading to Rae. In this story, there was a very rich chief tax collector Zacchaeus. Jesus was in Jericho that day and of course he drew a crowd. Zacchaeus wanted to see him but because he was so short, he couldn’t see over the crowd. He decided to climb a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus. When Jesus came closer, he looked up and told Zacchaeus to come down immediately and that he was going to stay in his home that day. Everyone around mumbled and was surprised to know that Jesus was staying with a tax collector who was also seen as a sinner.
Zacchaeus hopped down from the tree and immediately said to Jesus, , “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8). Jesus replied back to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
We both started to think about how this story is related to the others. I began to ask Rae some more questions: “So who do Zacchaeus and Jesus represent? What types of feelings do they have?”
Rae closes her eyes and begins to speak. “Zacchaeus, the tax collector is the wrongdoer. He is a sinner and was just curious to see who Jesus was and was convicted and felt bad for his past transgressions. When he did see Jesus and Jesus told him to come down from the tree, immediately he began to feel glad because Jesus was giving him a chance and saw something in him, a sinner. He also said that whoever he has cheated in the past, he will pay them back four times as much and he would give the poor half of his possessions. To me, this seems like Zacchaeus knows he was in the wrong and only wants to make it right.
Jesus on the other hand, is the one who forgives Zacchaeus. Of course Jesus is going to forgive him and accept his repentance. I think that when he said he wanted to stay in Zacchaeus’ house for the day; that’s his way of showing Zacchaeus that no matter what he has done in the past, Jesus can and will forgive him.
Finally I think that the crowd would be the ones who were like the older brother or the ninety-nine sheep. They were confused about why Jesus would pick a tax collector and sinner to spend the day with. To show their disproval and confusion, they murmured to themselves. In the story about the lost boy, the older brother expressed his disproval to the father saying that he has never done his father wrong yet he has never been thrown a party. ”
“Your right.” I said. “But there is more that we need to understand. Jesus gets criticized just because he picked Zacchaeus but the reason behind that is because Zacchaeus is considered a sinner and clearly the crowd didn’t think that was justified.
I think Zacchaeus surprised everyone and did what he did because he was convicted. Again, he knew he was in the wrong and when he saw Jesus, all he wanted to do was make it better.”
“This has been very helpful,” Rae said. “I feel a lot better and I think I can start my painting now. But what kind of images can I use? I’m still confused about that. Any ideas?” she asked.
“Oh yeah, wait a minute. I think I have one more that might work.” I searched for Luke 13 beginning with the first verse and began to read to Rae. This parable was about a fig tree not bearing fruit. The owner of the orchard wanted to cut it down saying, “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. Cut it down” (Luke 13:7). He was upset to constantly find that this tree was not doing what it was supposed to do. But, the gardener requested for another chance for the tree to bare fruit and if not, he will personally cut it down.
“This is another tricky one but if you look closely, I think you will see the picture Jesus is trying to portray here. I believe that in this story, the fig tree represents the children of Israel. During this time, they weren’t spiritually “baring fruit” and were constantly sinning. God, wanted to destroy them and in this case, God would be the orchard owner. Jesus was the gardener because he waned to save the tree and in turn, save the people of Israel and by requesting that they receive another chance, he was showing mercy towards them.
You see, the unrepentant person is the one who was quick to pass judgment and ‘wanted to cut the tree down’. But the repentant person is the one who chose mercy and pleaded for one more chance to bare fruit on behalf of the fig tree.
I hope this all makes sense now.” I said.
“This makes perfect sense. I know exactly what I’m going to do now. This is definitely going to be some painting. Thanks to you, I’m not going to fail,” she said with a half-cracked smile. “ I know I’m going to use tress in this picture but I don’t know what kind of tree to use or what they would look like for that matter. Do you have any idea where I can find that out?”
“Well, I’m sure the library should have a good selection on trees. If that doesn’t we can always look online for something!” I answered.
We got our things and began to walk towards the library. “I still think those sad faces are all you need for this painting” I said jokingly. We immediately busted out in laugher and continued on towards the library.

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