By King David, Juba, South Sudan
March 4, 2017 (SSB) —- It was fascinating to hear President Salva Kiir boldly announcing a national day of prayer on South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC) on Wednesday. In his pronouncement, he asked South Sudanese to turn out for the day to ‘repent, forgive one another and seek forgiveness from God almighty’.
While it is encouraging to see our president seeking divine solutions for our country’s troubles through repentance and prayer, I am keen to understand what repentance means to Salva Kiir and his government? In his definition, perhaps according to his version of a Bible, turning to God after moving a wrong path is what repentance means as in the following quote.
“Repent and forgive each other for the problems that we might have committed against one another for the last four years”, Kiir said. He went on to say, “Our time as people who aspire for a common destiny is now ripe to turn to God and ask him for forgiveness and blessings. We have not been that perfect and we need to submit ourselves to the Almighty through prayers.”
There are two observations here; a) the problem we might have committed, b) ripen time to turn to God. By using words like ‘might’, president Kiir simply doesn’t content of the sin his government has committed during the four years including an intense corruption. And secondly, by saying the time has ‘ripen to turn to God’ simply means they have intentionally done wrong and now they have decided to turn to right ways.
According to this statement from the president, repentance can be defined only as a decision to stop sinning or killing and start behaving well. Although that may be a part of the very basic understanding of many Christians, it is not the correct meaning of repentance.
Feeling sorrow after sinning is not repentance. Judas Iscariot felt remorse after betraying Jesus, but he didn’t repent (Matt. 27:3). Surely even Judas changed his mind; what he didn’t do was turn from his sin and throw himself on the Lord for mercy. Again, repentance is not just a resolve to do better. It is certainly not penance, an activity performed to try to atone for one’s own sins.
What repentance truly is
In the Bible, to repent means “to change one’s mind.” If our minds have been truly changed, our actions can definitely follow. That is what is recorded in the Bible according to book of St. Luke 3:8-14 which says, “ Bear fruits in keeping with repentance…………10 And the crowds asked him, what then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
The two biblical verses clearly explained that repentance, is an inward response, not an external activity. If our president doesn’t change his inward thinking to better actions, his search for a divinely stability of this country will only be in vain. In other words, our president should start to stand up to defend the course of the poor citizens by detaching himself from the corrupt officials around him, begin to punish the looters and start to treat everybody fairly. This is repentance.
Calling the poor people of this country out to baked in the dry season sun –heat while having millions of dollars in a foreign account is not a sign of any repentance.
When Zacchaeus repented, he said “Look, Lord! Here and now I give 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 19:8).” It was until Zacchaeus did this, that Jesus told him that ‘salvation has come to this house’. This was an action of accountability. As a tax collector Zacchaeus knew, he cheated people and to achieve salvation, he must pay back to prove his repentance by his actions.
In seeking repentance and forgiveness, we need to ask ourselves, are we going to change the way we think, we are going to give up our former ways of behaviours, and if we say yes, then we will begin to put down our weapons, call-off war and embrace peace. Then we will pray to God in honesty and then he will give us His blessings of love and unity.
King David leaves in South Sudan and can be reached at email@example.com
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