By Matt Capps
As a parent, I have quickly learned the difference between regret and repentance in my children. There are times when my children regret a wrong action because they got caught, and thus have to face the consequences. There are other times when they are truly repentant. How do I know the difference? I watch to see if there is any change in the particular behavior that brought about discipline in the first place.
Have you ever pondered the difference between regret and repentance? In our journey of faith, this is an important distinction. Regret is disappointment over a loss or a missed opportunity. Regret comes because the consequences of the decision were unfavorable to you.
Repentance, however, is different. Repentance is not primarily concerned with avoiding the unfavorable consequences of a bad decision, it is much more. Repentance is primarily concerned with returning to God. The key indicator of true repentance is in the active response. In other words, one can regret a decision and keep on moving in the same direction. When one is repentant, they turn to move in a different direction.
The book of Hosea is a powerful demonstration of this truth. The prophet goes into great detail about Israel’s unfaithfulness and urges repentance. Israel is called to turn from her ways, recommit to God, and walk in His ways (Hosea 12:6).
The beauty of God’s grace is this: God is graciously committed to his people even when they are uncommitted to Him. God is faithful to His people, even when they are unfaithful.
The heart of God demonstrated in Hosea is fully revealed in God the Son, Jesus Christ. The New Testament teaches us that if we repent and turn to Jesus, we will be forgiven of our unfaithfulness and redeemed. It’s our sin that breaks God’s heart. It’s God’s grace that melts ours. What a hope we have in Jesus!
What this truth teaches us is that God’s grace is greater than our sin. God’s faithfulness is mightier than our unfaithfulness. If we repent and turn to God, God does not count what we have done against us. Our hope is instead what God has done for us.