With the enraging news that Johnny Hunt, who has been credibly accused of sexual assault, is once again headlining a conference and has been “cleared” for ministry by a group of SB pastors–not to mention various other folks out there on repentance tours–I felt like maybe folks needed a little tutorial on repentance.
Just fair warning up front, not all the analogies here will work. If you try to make a 1:1 comparison, it will lead to some weird places. It’ll probably lead to weird places anyway. Just try to go with it.
First of all, repentance is not what you do in order to elicit a desired response from another person/other people. In fact, you cannot be repentant if you go into it with expectations or entitlements. If you steal your friend’s toy, you do not say you are sorry with the expectation that they will subsequently give it to you or at the very least pretend you didn’t just try to steal their toy. You do not get angry if they don’t respond the way you want, or if they are otherwise not properly grateful for your repentance.
They get to decide how they will respond, even in forgiveness. Forgiving you may mean they let you have the toy, or they let you play with it, or they give you another toy to play with. Forgiveness may mean they let go of their anger toward you but then choose never to play with you again. They could also choose not to forgive you at all. You don’t get to dictate that.
Repentance is accepting the consequences of your actions. It’s funny, but growing up Southern Baptist, I was incessantly told this. And you know what? It’s actually good guidance. What I didn’t realize is that it does not apply to powerful male leaders in the church. They are apparently entitled to their power and position and all the toys–they apparently cannot even function outside a pulpit and can get no other job–and if they screw up, they get to say they are sorry and suffer no consequences. I guess I didn’t properly understand that part. My bad.
Repentance is accepting the truth of the person you hurt. Again, if you steal your friend’s toy, you say straight up that you STOLE the toy. You don’t say that you borrowed it or you misunderstood/thought it was a gift or you mistook it for your toy or that God used the toy to call you into a toy ministry/there’s some higher plan going on here or that lots of friends make up stealing accusations and maybe this friend is, too. No, if your friend said you stole the toy, and especially if an independent investigator also says you stole the toy, then you admit that you STOLE THE TOY.
I’ll add on here that on a collective level, regarding a group that has in the past committed grievous harm against another group–your ancestors and even as recently as your parents stole all their toys and didn’t let them buy any new ones ever–you accept the ongoing, still unfolding truth of those folks’ experience as a result of the harm. After all, they didn’t have inherited toys or money to buy any and after so long of being prohibited from Toy Land, they might still be unsure how to go in and buy stuff. So you champion the causes they hold dear, that relate directly to the harm’s legacy. You try to figure out why they still don’t have equal toys and rectify that. You do not lecture them about how it’s been a really long time and why are folks still talking about the toy theft and let’s not talk too much about it because we don’t want anyone to feel bad. At THE VERY, MINIMAL LEAST you STFU and listen and accept the fact that your group probably isn’t the moral authority on toys.
Repentance is not a legal or political strategy. It’s not a show you put on when you need to get out of a jam. If you are, say, a political candidate whose entire platform is about the integrity of toy ownership and properly taking care of toys and then it comes out that you have stolen a lot of toys, like A LOT, and some of them you have completely destroyed, you don’t say you did that in the horrible Before Times, before Jesus saved you and you repented, but also you didn’t really do that actually and those offended toy owners are just mad because they are mean liberals. You don’t get a massive crowd of people to pray over you and ask God to ward off the devil aka people who say you have done bad things. You tell the truth. AND THEN
Repentance is making amends. If possible, you go and buy folks some new toys or help them take care of the toys they have. or something. You try your best to repair the damage that you’ve done. Sometimes you can’t, it’s just too late and too hard and Target is already closed. But you see what you can do.
Repentance is not laundering your misdeeds in a really sparkling detergent of a larger cause/missionaries. You don’t say, well, I may have possibly mis-borrowed some toys, but there’s a massive dragon coming to burn up all your remaining toys, and I have really mad sword skills so you have to let me over in your toys again so I can protect them. First of all, lotta folks out here have good sword skills, and we can all do just fine without you. Second of all, that dragon isn’t actually that dangerous, it’s like a tiny mini Yorkie-dragon. Third, missionaries are not laundry detergent (and in fact, missionary laundry is often pretty dingy. I mean this figuratively but also literally. Hard to get clothes clean in many foreign locales. I grew up wearing dishwater-colored underwear). Fourth, sit down and stay away from our toys.
A person can repent and be forgiven without getting their job back. Yes, it’s true. That’s especially the case if they are already plenty old, have plenty of money, and qualify for Medicare. It’s especially true if their job was guarding toys and their sin was stealing toys. I realize it’s subtle but, Do you see the connection? Like, I’m OK if they want to clean the bathrooms of the toy factory, but they don’t get to be in charge of toy protection anymore.
Also, a person can repent and be forgiven without anyone voting for them. Yes, it’s true. Lot of us get through life without holding political office just fine. Most of us, in fact. It’s not a right.
These are hard concepts, but let me re-cap:
Can a toy thief change? Sure.
Does that mean we have to let him have our toys in order to forgive him? Nope.
But what can he do if he doesn’t have our toys? I dunno, read a book?
But isn’t that mean and vindictive? Uh, no, it’s book, it’s not a torture device.
Also, he has Medicare. He’ll be fine.