The Paper Pulpit
It was in the 1950s that psychiatry and various forms of therapy began to achieve genuine credibility in the United States. Those who followed and employed the teachings of Sigmund Freud believed that when you did something wrong, you did not have to hold yourself responsible. You could blame somebody else.
Who was to blame? Your parents were! Thus, these excuses for wrong behavior were fabricated and often used: “I came from a dysfunctional family! My parents crippled me emotionally! They were too demanding! I am what I am because of them! Don’t hold me accountable!”
Next came the 1960’s — with our nation in turmoil from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, and with rioting in the streets of many of our cities — a new kind of thinking was born: “My problems are not my fault! They were caused by society! I am only a part of the culture in which I live.” Therefore, there was nothing wrong with rioting and looting and burning down cities. People burned their draft cards or our country’s flag and did other mischief. Individuals were not responsible; society’s ills caused it to happen.
Following the 1960s came the 1970s — sometimes called “the Me Decade.” This decade featured the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the traditional family. It was easy to say, “I’ve got my own life to live! I will do things my way, and you do them your way. Don’t try to lay a guilt trip on me!” In other words, “The ends justify the means. If it feels good, do it.”
In the years since the 1970s a new concept with regard to personal accountability was invented: “victimhood.” If your house is robbed, you should have had a burglar alarm system. If you are raped, the rapist said it was your fault because you wore clothes that indicated you were asking for someone to walk through your front door. If your car was stolen, it was because you parked it in the wrong place, or you left the keys in the ignition. Criminals did not blame their parents, or society, and certainly not themselves. They had been victimized.
What is missing in each of these pictures? No one is willing to say, “I am wrong! I have sinned! It is my fault! I am responsible!” This has been happening since the beginning of time when Adam blamed Eve for disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit, and Eve blamed the serpent. They were not willing to repent. They disobeyed God. They wanted to do things their own way.
Repent is a very important word. Re means “to return.” The word re-pent means “to go back.” Pent is a word indicating “the highest position,” — for example, a penthouse is located on the top floor. Thus, to repent is “to go back to the place of highest position.”
The place of highest position for Adam and Eve was their status in the Garden of Eden when they walked together with God. That was before the sin of disobedience destroyed their relationship, and God and human beings were spiritually separated. God does not ask us to repent of our sins because He wants to make us feel bad about ourselves, or because He wants to shame or embarrass us. It is because He strongly desires to restore our lost relationship with Him.
Repentance is a word you will not hear used very often today in sermons that are preached by the pastors who stand in our nation’s pulpits. This is indeed a tragedy, for no one can have the benefits of God’s grace without yielding to what He requires of those who serve Him. Repentance is the first road that must be traveled in order to have a restored relationship with God (Luke 13:3).
True repentance has two sides to it. It looks upon things past with a weeping eye, and upon the future with a watchful eye. The first step anyone must take in order to know Jesus Christ as personal Savior is to repent of all sin and ask for His forgiveness. If you don’t know Him, you can’t repent too soon, because you don’t know how soon it will be too late.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.