Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Rend your heart, not your garments from The Meaning Of Repentance, 09/12/2016

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Joel 2:13

In chapter two Joel describes the coming of the Day of the Lord as a response to the sins of the nation. The inability of historians to precisely date the book of Joel, with suggested dates ranging from 900 BC to 400 BC,1 indicates just how common it was for the nation of Israel to incur God's wrath. This wasn't a one-off event, but one incident among many. And God requires more than surface-level repentance. It is perhaps because the people only pay lip service to God in response to their sins that they continue to be repeated. It is not enough to perform the outward signs of grief, but the grief must be truly felt and atoned for. This is what God asks for here, through the words of Joel, rend your heart, not your garments.

It is easy to say sorry when we wrong or hurt another, but 'sorry' is cheap, and usually changes nothing—we'll make the same mistake, act in the same angry, uncaring way again. What we need in addition to saying sorry is to make amends. Action to alter the situation and relationship is required if both parties are to heal. Making amends is far harder, in great part because often we just don't know how, or what to do. What I have found though in such situations is that the person I hurt does know what I need to do to right the wrong. Asking, "what can I do differently next time", or "how can I make this right for you" is a good starting point for healing.

God is not sitting around looking for reasons to be angry and get revenge. God would rather we return to Him in peace and reconciliation for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. But it is not only the God of Abraham these words need to refer to. Whatever belief we may have, whatever gods or spirits we imagine, it is likely true that we will become happier within ourselves, steadier, more balanced, if we seek to care for those we have hurt, to make amends. We do it for ourselves, we do it for the other, and we do it for the Greater Good.

1 Historical Context, wikipedia entry