Repentance is necessary and sufficient for forgiveness and consists of three ordered steps: (1) recognition that you have sinned, feeling of remorse and personal responsibility for the sin, and recognition of the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party—confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.
Christ teaching in the Parable of the Lost Son provides an understanding of the value of repentance in human relationship with God and his purpose regarding repentance in human interactions and relationships. He explains in the parable that God sees repentance as the return of a lost soul and welcomes and forgives the repentant person unconditionally.
Also, he uses the parable to explain sin as wrongdoing that a person commits against at least one other—the injured party. In that case, repentance requires three actions in order: (1) recognition and remorse, whereby you recognize that you have sinned, feel remorse and accept personal responsibility for the sin, and recognize the injured party; (2) commitment to turnaround from the sinful behavior and turn to doing right and just; and (3) confession to the injured party, whereby you confess the sin, your personal responsibility, remorse, and commitment to turnaround. As we discuss in a previous study under Responding to Sin, Christ explains that the injured party must accept the repentance and forgive the repentant person.
We discuss our understanding of the parable first and conclude the study with a discussion of the parable itself based on the gospel according to Luke [15:11–21].
To respond to a sin by an associate, provide them an opportunity to repent, even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. If they repent, accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, separate from them to protect yourself from sin.
We discuss Christ teaching to explain the individual responsibility regarding another person (an associate) that has committed sin. He teaches that you should provide the associate with an opportunity to repent. You should do this even if the person has sinned and repented previously. Also, you need to provide the opportunity diligently and with persistence. Christ describes several steps for escalating your effort by involving an increasing number of people. If the person repents, you should accept the matter as resolved. However, if they refuse to repent, then you should separate yourself from them.
The essence of the message is that a sin by an associate threatens your continued association with them, because you need to separate yourself from any person, thing, or event that may cause you to sin (see previous discussion under Individual Responsibility Regarding Sin). First, you should seek to help the associate to remove the sin. You should do so with diligence and persistence. If the associate repents, then accept. However, if the associate refuses to repent, then separate from him or her to protect yourself from sin.
We discuss specific steps based on Christ teaching for seeking to convince the associate to repent.
Christ teaches two elements of the individual responsibility regarding sin. First, do not instigate others to turn away from God. Those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. Because forgiveness requires repentance of all along the chain, repentance by an instigator alone could be insufficient. Therefore, the punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable. Second, do not commit sin, even if instigated by another. Separate yourself from people, things, or events that may cause you to sin. However, in contrast to sin committed by instigating others, repentance from a sin committed by self guarantees forgiveness.
We discuss Christ teaching to understand that the individual responsibility regarding sin has two elements. First, you should separate yourself from whoever or whatever that may cause you to sin. If these are people, separate yourself from them; if things, separate yourself from the things; if events, keep yourself far away from the events. You are individually responsible for any sin you commit, even if the sin is instigated by others. [Matthew 18:8–9]: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
Second, you should not instigate others to sin. Instigating another person to sin means doing something that causes a person that believes in God to turn away from God. Turning away from God means turning to sin [Matthew 18:6–7]: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”
The punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable, because those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. In that case, forgiveness would require repentance of all along the chain. Therefore, whereas repentance from sin committed by self means a turn to God and guarantees forgiveness, repentance from instigating another to sin could be insufficient for forgiveness because of the other lost souls along the potential chains of instigated sinners.
Christ uses parables to describe separation of people into two categories based on living in the image of God: the righteous and the wicked.
The righteous are people that live in the image of God, whereby each person is a channel for God’s compassion and conveyor of his image. As a channel for God’s compassion (i.e., God’s provider assistant), a person recognizes needs placed in their path, commits to providing for the need, and perseveres until they succeed: much like the Samaritan in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Being a conveyor of God’s image means providing reasonable opportunity for people to feel the hand of God through your interactions with them. In contrast, the category of the wicked consists of people that decline God’s call to compassion by denying services placed in their path: much like the chief priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Christ describes the categorization through the parables of the weeds [Matthew 13:24–29 and 37–43], the net [Matthew 13:47–50] and the sheep and the goats [Matthew 25:31–46].
ETERNAL LIFE FOR THE RIGHTEOUS He explained through the parables that the righteous will inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. The wicked, in contrast, will be condemned to eternal punishment in a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Also, he explained through the parable of the weeds that God offers every person a persistent opportunity to repent from a life of wickedness to a life of righteousness. The opportunity persists until death or final judgment, whichever comes first [Matthew 13:40]. We examine the three parables in this study and use information contained in them and other related teachings of Christ to discuss the meaning of righteousness.
We discuss Christ’s teaching on sin, repentance, and forgiveness. He admonishes us to refrain from causing others to sin and to forgive people that sin against us. He talked about sin in terms of things a person may do against other persons, thereby defining principles applicable to dispute resolution.
The teaching focused on individual responsibilities in avoiding sin, seeking forgiveness of a sin committed against another person, and accepting repentance and forgiving a person that has sinned against them [Luke 17:1–4]. The responsibilities include rebuking a person for committing sin against another person and forgiving them if they repent, irrespective of the frequency of occurrence. In this study, we discuss the meaning of causing others to sin (being a channel for temptation to others), rebuking a person that sins against another, seeking forgiveness, and forgiving others. Christ emphasized repentance as necessary for forgiveness. We recall a previous study on the life of Joseph (eleventh son of Jacob) that illustrates the benefits of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.