As any parent knows, getting a child to ‘say sorry’ (and mean it!) is a difficult task. The child often fails to see that what they have done (snatching a toy from someone else, pushing someone unceremoniously away) is wrong, and even if they acknowledge that they have done wrong, they still don’t like the shame of admitting it and asking for forgiveness. Sally Welch says, ‘saying sorry is difficult; admitting guilt makes us feel small and ashamed; making restitution is costly.’ In our readings today (Acts 2:36-42), we see that we can never be made right with God without this first step of repentance. Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost brought conviction to many people who rightly asked what they then had to do. Peter’s command is blunt: ‘repent and be baptised.’ (Acts 2:38)
Though we may squirm at this first step, we find that when we do repent, we open the door to God’s blessings: ‘and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 2:38) We can’t receive this gift if we are full of our own righteousness and pride, but once we empty ourselves of these things, our arms are open to receive God Himself! The U-turn implicit in repentance means we turn from our own ways of doing things and run towards God, finding that He is ready and waiting to accept us and not condemn us. Relationships are restored following repentance; there is a way forward.