Source: Mark W. Gaither, Redemptive Divorce, 2008, 141-142
How do we know that repentance is genuine? John the Baptist told the multitudes to “bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance” (Luke 3:8). Paul told the Gentiles “they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20). It appears, therefore, that genuine repentance will make itself evident by its deeds. The truly repentant sinner will freely acknowledge his sin (1 John 1:9). The truly repentant sinner will seek to make restitution for the wrong done, especially if material loss or property damage has resulted (Philem. 18-19). The truly repentant person will exhibit genuine sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:8-10). The truly repentant person will manifest the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). (Source: J. Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline, 1985, 93)
Sometimes people merely pretend to repent in order to avoid loss or retain control. And they can appear authentically sorrowful, only to return to their destructive behavior later. An obvious change in attitude and behavior always accompanies repentance. The following signs of repentance should be observed:
- Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them into trouble. Has the person demonstrated a desire to be completely honest about his/her behavior?
- Repentant people face the pain their sin has caused others. Has the person allowed you to express the intensity of emotions you feel—anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment—without trying to justify, minimize, or shift blame?
- Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt. Has the person asked your forgiveness? Does his/her sorrow seem genuine? Does the person pressure you to say, “I forgive you?” Does the person expect you to “get over it” without sufficient time to heal?
- Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians. What has the person done to address any issues that may have contributed to his/her destructive choices? What is the person doing to avoid a relapse and to grow stronger as a God-honoring person?
- Repentant people accept their limitations. Does the person resent your need for reassurance? Doe he/she seem to understand the need for the rebuilding of trust over time?
- Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them. Is the person putting forth good effort to fulfill his/her duties at work and at home? Is the person moving forward in life with humility, or do you sense that he/she merely wants to get things back to normal as quickly as possible?