How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance:
“A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: W ould the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.” (p. 72)
These are good indicators, and I believe we can add a few more.
Here are 12 signs we have a genuinely repentant heart:
1. We name our sin as sin and do not spin it or excuse it, and further, we demonstrate “godly sorrow,” which is to say, a grief chiefly about the sin itself, not just a grief about being caught or having to deal with the consequences of sin.
2. We actually confessed before we were caught or the circumstantial consequences of our sin caught up with us.
3. If found out, we confess immediately or very soon after and “come clean,” rather than having to have the full truth coaxed out of us. Real repentance is typically accompanied by transparency.
4. We have a willingness and eagerness to make amends. We will do whatever it takes to make things right and to demonstrate we have changed.
5. We are patient with those we’ve hurt or victimized, spending as much time as is required listening to them without jumping to defend ourselves.