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Posted: 07/23/07

By Steve Cornell

How do you begin the process of reconciliation when you've been deeply and perhaps repeatedly sinned against? When an offended party works toward reconciliation, the first and most important step is the confirmation of genuine repentance on the part of the offender (see: Luke 17:3).

Consider seven signs of genuine confession and repentance:         

(Essential information for co-dependents or enablers)  

The offender:  

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of saying, "Since you think I've done something wrong…" or "If  have done anything to offend you…").  

2. Accepts accountability from others.  

3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.  

4. Does not have a defensive attitude about his or her being in the wrong.            

5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.  

6. Does not resent doubts about his or her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)  

7. Makes restitution wherever necessary. 

Note on restitution: Restitution gives the offender an opportunity to demonstrate by actions that he or she wishes to be restored to the injured person and to society in general. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession and be reconciled to you. Forgiveness does not necessarily release an offender from responsibility to repair the damages caused by his or her actions. An injured party may exercise mercy and choose to waive the right to restitution, but in many cases making restitution is beneficial even for the offender. Doing so demonstrates remorse, sincerity, and a new attitude, which can strengthen reconciliation. At the same time, it serves to establish lessons that will help the offender avoid similar wrongdoing in the future.  

Note about confirming genuine repentance:

A disingenuous unrepentant offender will resent your desire to confirm the genuineness of his confession and repentance. He may resort to lines of manipulation. "I guess you can't find it in yourself to be forgiving." "You just want to rub it in my face." "I guess I should expect that you want your revenge." "Some Christian you are, I thought Christians believed in love and compassion." These lines reveal an unrepentant attitude. Don't be manipulated into avoiding the step of confirming the authenticity of your offender's confession and repentance.

Use these signs carefully and with much prayer. In difficult cases, seek the help of a wise counselor. You must be as certain as you can of your offender's repentance-especially in cases involving repeated offences. It is hard to genuinely restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance.  Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13). Of course, only God can read hearts– we must evaluate actions. Jesus said, "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:16a). We must not allow superficial appearances of repentance to control our responses. Displays of tears or appearing to be sorry must not become substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behavior. 

See also:



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By Steve Cornell

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Re: Seven signs of true repentance
Posted On: 07/25/07 12:50:16 AM Age 63, TX
This is just plain old practical advice on Christian living. A humble heart should find this a help to do a quick reminder in being obedient and allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate Christ in us. This doesn’t have to be technically right for the Holy Spirit to make it applicable for all who hunger and thirst. It’s the message not the law. old glen

Re: Seven signs of true repentance
Posted On: 07/24/07 07:36:41 PM Age 55, MO
I wish I'd had this information years ago. My husband was repeatedly unfaithful 4 times that I am aware of throughout our 28 years of marriage. He always said he was sorry and I always forgave him. However, after all these years I finally understood that true repentance was missing. He never accepted full responsibity. There was always something I'd done that led to the unfaithfulness. He would be defensive about his being in the wrong. He resented doubts about his sincerity. It was a long time before I realized that his heart hadn't changed. If I'd had this information, I would have been wiser in dealing with our situation.

Re: Seven signs of true repentance
Posted On: 07/24/07 10:01:35 AM Age 29, PA
This was an interesting article, particularly because my husband and I are currently counseling a couple that has come from years of drunkeness, infidelity, and abuse. The wife is the wronged party in all those things, it appears, and the husband recently trusted Christ, to the glory of God. She is, of course, now having a hard time understanding how she is to treat him. She's created a habit, a "rut," if you will, in her mind of constantly dwelling on the hurt she's experienced. We do NOT deny the hurt AT ALL. She endured some terrible things. And if we once saw her husband head back down that same path, we would involve the authorities right away, for her protection and the protection of their children. But she has wrapped the cloak of "victim" around her so tightly that though her husband has truly repented, she will not forgive him. So it goes both ways.

Re: Seven signs of true repentance
Posted On: 07/24/07 07:32:09 AM Age 28, AR
I am truly saddened when we take lightly what God's Word says. There was something that struck me the wrong way when I read this article and I didn't know what it was until I was finished and went back to the beginning. Mr. Cornell starts off with having the reader look at Luke 17:3. But what is missing here is the context of the verse, much less the context of the Bible in whole. Then I click to post feed back and I am struck with it again. I wish that people would'nt take the Bible out of context, but it will happen. I only can hope that those reading this, or any, article will study and let the Spirit direct them into the right meaning. Contrary to popular belief the Bible is not a book full of relative passages and meanings, it is a book full of absolute truth. Nathan Hooper

Re: Seven signs of true repentance
Posted On: 07/24/07 06:47:55 AM Age 33, NH
I think that the article stopped a little short ... I don't believe that we are called to cynicism or to be stingy with forgiveness. While it is true that we need to test the repentance of an offender, we are also called to forgive, even if it's over and over again. There are people I don't trust because of what they've done. On the other hand, I prefer to err on the side of grace, because I know that I am the beneficiary of boundless grace by One whom I offend over and over again. I think that the article was good, as far as it went. You needed to spend some time on the counterpoint, though, about handling times when you're not sure whether to forgive or not.

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