II Corinthians 7:9-11
A BROKEN and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not
despise" (Ps. 51:17). A man broken and weeping over his sin is a
beautiful and awesome sight. Contrition and remorse for sin is
something the church needs today.
There is confusion though between contrition and repentance.
Contrition over sin, or "godly sorrow," God says, "worketh repentance
to salvation" (v. 10). Repentance is the mental and contrition the
emotional aspect toward sin. Repentance comes from two words meaning
"to change" and "mind." Repentance, then, is a change of mind. Man
thinks he is not bad, in fact thinks he is quite good and becomes
offended if told he is a sinner, until God gives him "repentance to
the acknowledging of the truth" (II Tim. 2:25).
The outward expression of conviction, contrition, is
to be desired from the human standpoint, but one must remember "man
looketh on the outward appearance but the LORD looketh on the heart"
(I Sam. 16:7). A deacon and I, visiting in a home, talked to a couple
about Christ. They expressed absolutely no emotion, but almost as
though it were a business deal the wife said she was ready to receive
Christ if her husband was. We prayed with them as they received
Christ. The next Sunday they confessed Christ publicly and have
demonstrated transformed lives over the years. Later she said she was
so convicted that night she could hardly hold back the tears.
The amount of remorse or contrition shown may depend
on the past life. The couple just mentioned were an unusually good
moral couple. A man who had been a drunkard for more than twenty-five
years wept bitterly as he came to Christ one Mother's Day. All three
experienced repentance which resulted in changed lives. Contrition is
desirable, but repentance is essential.
To be affected not only mentally but emotionally
regarding Christ and salvation is a healthy sign. God speaks of those
"having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Tim. 4:2) and of
those "being past feeling" (Eph. 4: 19). Emotions are important. We
want people to believe with the heart (Rom. 10:9) and so should not
decry emotions but pray for contrite hearts.