As I've been hinting at in my last few post (and have written about before) I believe that repentance is the response to forgiveness rather than repentance being a condition to forgiveness.
I can't find anywhere in scripture where someone has to change their life or repent before Jesus forgives them. It's always the other way around.
The woman caught in adultery - Jesus says to her, "your sins have been forgiven, go and sin no more". I've often heard this text preached as if the "go and sin no more" part is the stipulation, as if, in order for her forgiveness to "stick" she has to stop sinning. I think it's just the opposite. It seems as though she can now stop living in sin because she now is aware that she has been forgiven.
Zacchaeus the tax collector - Jesus said to him, "Zacchaeus , come down immediately. I must stay at your house today". Zacchaeus then gives half of his possessions to the poor and pays back anyone he has cheated four times the amount. And thats the whole story. Jesus never threatened or coerced Zacchaeus. He simply accepted him when no one else was willing to do so, and it changed his life.
There are plenty more examples like these throughout the gospels. But grace and love are not easy. It's much easier to get people to do what you want them to do when you threaten them. This probably explains why almost every "alter call" I've ever heard threatens people of eternal damnation unless they come forward, raise their hands, or make eye contact with the pastor. Because the threat of punishment and instilling fear in people will get quick and easy results.
But these results are usually short lived. Fear usually only temporarily fixes the problem and doesn't really change the person. I can't tell you how many times I destroyed good music after a youth retreat only to have to purchase that same music again a couple of weeks later after the emotions had worn off.
As parents, we have chosen not to spank our kids (this is not a post on parental discipline, for I know how touchy that subject can be). There are many reasons for this and No, our kids aren't perfect and sometimes they're just plain crazy and out of control. And yes, there have been times where I've wanted to "wear them out". But we have seen that our children respond better to grace and love (not saying we don't discipline) than they do when we threaten them with some sort of "punishment". This is especially true with my oldest daughter.
We have seen her push back and "rebel" even more when we threaten her, but have also seen her break when love is shown.
She used to throw these horrible, I mean horrible, fits as if she all the sudden became a different person. We would take her toys, shut her in her room just to contain her, and could hear her throwing stuff up against the wall as she was screaming at us. It was crazy to say the least. Almost made me reconsider believing in demon possession a few times. ;)
One day in the middle of one of these rather long tantrums, I finally walked into her room (where she was screaming and throwing whatever she could find to throw for about 20 minutes). After trying everything we could think of, I just knelt down with her and simply held my arms out to her. She looked at me and her spirit broke.
Something changed immediately. Her screaming immediately converted into the most pitiful tears I've ever seen and she ran to me sobbing as she threw her arms around me and put her head on my shoulder where she stayed for a good five minutes.
My shirt was soaked from her tears.
She was truly sorry for how she had just acted and not because she was about to get spanked or have something that she loved taken away from her. But because grace and love shows us who we truly are. It makes us see clearly.
For Grace doesn't ignore sin... It exposes it.
Jesus shows us that violence, coercion, and threats are not the answer, rather it is love and grace that brings about true change. And not just the kind of change that gets a person to act a certain way for a short period of time, but a change of the heart.
And remember, Jesus not only came to show us what God is like, but came to show us how to live.