We can all name someone that made a promise that they didn’t keep. People pledge to do something and follow it up with, “I promise,” “Scout’s honor,” “Pinky promise,” or “Cross my heart and hope to die.” The political landscape is rife with people that break promises. When someone says one thing and does another, especially more than once, we see them as untrustworthy. What if that person breaking the promise is us? Can we be people of words and deeds?
Keeping our promises can be difficult. It has long been said, “Never make a promise you can’t keep.” If we follow this rule, we are less likely to disappoint others and ourselves. But sometimes we screw up. We say, “I’ll never do that again,” and inevitably fall back into the same old routine. Breaking a promise we make to ourselves may not affect someone else, but it can eat away at our souls.
We are currently in the season of Lent on the Christian calendar. This period of fasting and moderation, beginning with Ash Wednesday, is traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations. Many celebrate Lent as a time to repent and turn away from sin. I find it interesting that it falls after we pledge New Year’s resolutions that we probably failed to keep.
Lent also occurs as spring approaches—at least in the northern hemisphere. It’s a time of growth and renewal. The days are getting longer and the nights shorter. We are moving away from the dark and into the light. Repentance is more than turning from sin; it’s changing one’s mind. According to the Bible, repentance results in a change of action.
We can’t just say we will change our ways; we have to follow it through by changing our actions.
Now, some may say, “I gave up ____ for Lent. Doesn’t that mean I kept my promise?” Well, yes and no. I commend anyone that gives up something they really desire. Unfortunately, this self-denial and fasting usually cease after the six weeks. By Easter Sunday, many fall right back into their old vises. Why make the promise to change if we are not going to keep it—truly keep it?
Our repentance during the Lenten season doesn’t earn any special favor from God. It is by His grace that we are saved. He sacrificed his only Son for our redemption. That is His promise. He stands there with open arms, loving us no matter what. Our broken promises keep us from letting in that love.
Pastor Randy Milleville, of Zion Lutheran Church, has a wonderful way of explaining repentance and God’s love. He said, “God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.”
Our goal should be to repent of our sins every day, not just for 46 days. We should turn away from sin and run straight into the arms of God. Yes, we can be people of words and deeds if we are honest with ourselves and change our ways. Those changes will be evident in all that we do. Instead of weeds, our gardens will produce a bountiful fruit.