“Genuine repentance may be one of the most difficult acts for a person, let alone a community, to perform. For good reasons, Christian tradition thinks of genuine repentance not as a human possibility but as a gift of God. It is not just that we do not like being wrong, but that almost invariably the others are not completely right either…We admit wrongdoing, justify ourselves, and attack all in one breath.” Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

Aside from the fact that Volf’s book has caused theological, sociological, and political landslides all around the world it also has great personal devotional value to it as well. The above quote is just one expression of this truth. Consider what Volf says in that last line for just one minute…

…why is repentance so hard? Even impossible apart from God’s grace working it in us and between us?…

…because when we repent we often do all three things at once. Sure we admit to wrongdoing – which lets face it isn’t always that difficult – but we also seek to justify ourselves either by recounting the wrongdoing the person we’re repenting to has done to us in the past, or by pointing to what we consider circumstantial matters out of our control that lead us into the wrongdoing we’ve done. And it doesn’t stop at justifying ourselves when we repent to someone we often times attack them again in another fashion in order to not allow them to be in that powerful place where they can either forgive us or condem us. What we do is try and give them only a provisional ability to forgive us, by forgiving ourselves in advance – which usually includes playing down our offence.

Yet the Christian life is supposed to be robust with repentance on our part. If repentance is an area you’re struggling with, and forgiveness is something you’ve assumed you understood in the past but now realize just how demanding and sacficial an act it is then I want to suggest you pick Volf’s book for devotional use, and for the transformational challenge’s it will bring to you.

But lets face it, its only a book, and sinful life is sinful life, his book may inspire you as it did me, but in the end repentance is a gift from God. Seek the giver…

(Photographic art by DeviantMonk, piece entitled “Reconciliation“)