Beyond the Lectionary Text: Genesis 33

by Bill Sytsma

Content and Observations

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
-Martin Luther

Early in his monastic life, Martin Luther was consumed with the worry that his righteousness was not great enough. He tried fasting, praying, and self-flagellation in order to convince himself that he was truly remorseful for his sin, and that his repentance was sincere. He knew that his sinful nature caused him to walk out-of-step with God, and he wanted the assurance that he was making the necessary adjustments to

Repentance can be viewed as a one-time event. In his book, Dealer: A Soccer Pro’s Deliverance from the Cocaine Underworld, Jon Kregel tells the story of the evening he turned to the gospel of John while sitting in a prison cell. His life had followed a path that had included professional soccer, nightclubs, and cocaine. In his cell that evening, John prayed for the first time in years, “Jesus, please forgive me for running from you for so long. I am so sorry for all the sins I’ve committed against you. Please forgive me. And please come in and fill that lonely place inside of me.”

John’s prayer marked a moment of repentance. In that instant, his life was changed. He trusted in God to forgive him, and he took on a new identity. He was no longer named “Convicted Drug Dealer,” but instead, “Child of God.”

But that drastic life changing moment when Jon’s identity shifted was not the only adjustment God made in Jon’s life. In the following years, God guided, corrected, and shaped Jon so that he was transformed. The prayer of repentance began a life of repenting. His identity changed in that moment, but he was called to live into that new identity.

For Jon, repentance was more than a one-time incident. It became a way of life.

Textual Background

A Story of Repentance

Thoughts for Preaching

Illustration Idea