“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
“I’m sorry, please forgive me” is something that every human being has said at least once in their life. Now, whether they truly meant it or not is up for debate. Regardless, this phrase is often part of an apology and is extended as a peace offering with the assumption that a certain action won’t happen again.
But when an apology is reduced to merely words unaccompanied by a dedication to changing behavior, it’s time to call it for what it is: insincere or fake. Repentance involves “turning from our wicked ways” and “seeking the face of God” in order to treat others more like Christ.
So what does true repentance look like? How can you know if God is working in your life or the lives of others that may have hurt you? Here are 5 proofs that repentance is real.
When Jesus confronted Zacchaeus about his theft from the people, the tax collector demonstrated his repentant heart by giving “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 19:8b).
He sought to make restitution with those he had wronged. In fact, he wanted to make amends as soon as he possibly could. There was a yearning in his heart that knew what he did wrong and was determined to make it right.
Someone who is truly repentant will not balk at the consequences that his or her actions bring. They understand what sin looks like and how it affects others even if healing and forgiveness have already begun. Trust is something that takes time to regain, and true repentance understands this.
The idea of “forced love” is contradictory. Love is a choice that is demonstrated by sincere and authentic action. If someone demands or expects immediate forgiveness for their behavior, it’s already a clear sign that their apology was insincere.
Someone who truly repents of wrongdoing will understand the hurt and pain they’ve caused. They will wait until the offending person is ready to forgive–not because it will make them feel better, but because true healing took place and they want to restore the relationship.
When someone receives forgiveness for something they have done wrong, it should bring humility. Understanding that forgiveness is not something we deserve but an outpouring of God’s grace is an indication that real repentance has taken place.
When Esau and Jacob finally saw each other for the first time since Jacob deceived his brother, Jacob wept and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me” (Genesis 33:10).
The word repent in the original Greek literally means “changing of the mind.” Seeking forgiveness solely because of guilt or shame is not true repentance. It may involve those things, but it’s not the driving force behind repentance.
When someone changes their mind, their behavior reflects this decision. True repentance is demonstrated by actions. People should see a difference in someone’s deeds when repentance occurs. They no longer pursue a certain sinful behavior. Instead, they seek to be more like Jesus in all areas of life.