Bible teachers often distinguish between two kinds of repentance. The first kind is what they call attrition. It isn’t heartfelt sorrow for wrongdoing but a selfishly motivated response to potential punishment. This could well be Jonah’s response. His willingness to go to Ninevah now in order to avoid further discipline can be seen as an act of attrition–external, self-preserving, and even self-centered.
The second kind of repentance Bible teachers talk about is contrition. Contrition is true repentance. It entails heartfelt sorrow for offending God and others. It involves not just turning away from disobedience, but also turning toward obedience. it’s an external change motivated by an internal change. It’s self-sacrificial. It’s God-centered.
False repentance, or no repentance, leads to bitterness, anger, and unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing. Until we can recognize our own wrongdoing, we’ll continue to be mastered by this self-centered bondage. Our relationships will continue to be strained and frayed. Freedom comes only with true repentance (p. 106).
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