As sin is separation from God, repentance then is returning to God. God says: “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Malachi 3:7). When the prodigal son repented, he returned to his father (Luke 15:18-20). True repentance is a human longing to return to the origin from which it was taken. It is the desire of a heart that stayed away from God, and felt that it stay away any longer.
As sin is a dispute with God, so repentance is reconciliation with God. This is what our teacher Saint Paul said about his apostolic work,: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading by us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Actually repentance is not only reconciliation, but the means by with God returns and dwells in the human heart, transforming it to a heaven. As for those non-repentants, how can God dewll in their hearts while sin is dwelling therein? The Bible says, “What communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Repentance is also a spiritual awakening
The sinful person is unaware of his state. The Bible says to him, “That now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans 13:11). By this context, repentance is the return of: a person to himself, the return of oneself to its original sensitivity, the return of the heart to its fervor and the return of the conscience to its work. It is fittingly said about the prodigal son in his repentance: “He came to himself” (Luke 15:17). He then came back to his alertness, to his correct thinking ,and to his spiritual understanding.
For as sin is regarded as spiritual death, just as the Bible says about sinners that they are: “dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:5). Therefore, repentance is a transition from death to life according to the writings of Saint John the Evangelist in 1 John 3:14. Saint Paul the Apostle says concerning this: “Awake, you who sleep; arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:14). Saint James the Apostle confirms the same meaning by saying: “He who turns a sinner from the ‘error’ of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). Repentance is separation of the spirit from God, just as Saint Augustine said: “Repentance is a new pure heart, which God gives to the sinners to love Him with”
Repentance is a Divine act performed by God inside the person, according to His Divine promise, saying: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, I will cleanse you from all your filthiness…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you…and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
Repentance is freedom from the slavery of sin and the devil. It is also freedom from the most sinful habits and from running after lusts. It is impossible for us to partake of this freedom without the work of the Lord in us. Therefore the Bible says: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36). It is true freedom because, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:30).
We receive this freedom if by repentance, then we stand firm in the truth– not through vanity. “And the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Repentance then, is forsaking sin because of the love of God and the love of righteousness. Not all forsaking of sin is considered repentance. Other reasons are: fear, embarassment, inability, preoccupation (with the remnants of its love in heart) or as a result of unsuitable situations, are not considered repentance. As for true repentance, it is the discarding of sin practically, mentally and from the heart, out of love for God, His commandments, His Kingdom, and the repentant’s care for his eternity.
True repentance is forsaking sin without returning to it. Thus have been the stories of the saints who have repented such as: St. Augustine, St. Moses the Black, St. Mary of Egypt, Pelagia, Thais, and Sarah….Repentance was in the lives of all of these and others, a turning point towards God, continuing throughout life without return to sin. This reminds us of the sayings of St. Shishoy: “I do not remember that the devil has tempted me into the same sin twice.” It is possible that the first sin was a result of ignorance, negligence, weakness and unawarness of the tricks of the devil or a lack of cautiousness. But after repentance and awaken, there is precision in life and caution of sin. As for the one who discards sin and returns to it, he has not repented. This is only an attempt towards repentance…every time the sinner arises, sin drags him lower. If freedom is struck down, he will not repent.
Repentance is a cry from the conscience and a revolution against the past. It is repulsion from sin, great regret and rejection of the old state with embarassment and shame. It is therefore said about repentance that it is a “Daring Judge.”