by Rick Wills
Hearing so many arguments about what repentance is and is not, you begin to realize that the term is used very subjectively by most people. They often may not have an absolute definition for the word, and they usually want you to just do or say various things until they are happy with your sadness. But repentance does have a definite meaning, and its objective involves more than just sadness.
In the Hebrew and Torah, the word for Repentance is Teshuvoh.
Teshuvoh means "to deliberately return" to something, but it also means "to purposefully live with someone." By the sense of "return" and "dwelling", Teshuvoh becomes something that you do, and that "doing" is a specific action of friendship.
Torah commands that you do Teshuvoh whenever you hurt someone (Numbers 5:6-8). And if you hurt a man by hurting his lamb or ox, then you must pay him the market value for that animal, plus you must add 1/5th or 20% of its material cost to that restitution payment. Afterward you must give an additional gift of your own lamb or ox to the Temple and its Priesthood, for verse 8 stated, "in addition to the Ram offering for atonement." This need for an additional gift to the Priests is also supported by the words in Leviticus 6:1-7.
That’s Teshuvoh, and it always involves both restoring and improving a living condition.
So repentance, as defined by Torah, is grounded in tangible affairs. It is not a concept or feeling, and it has human evidence and closure. The closure is the fact that a material cost is extravagantly repaid. The closure is also that the offended person must accept your generous return. Additionally, the closure is that the two of you are agreeing to live with each other again. And by this, it should be evident that Teshuvoh has a singular objective. The objective is that brothers should dwell with each other in unity. And the exchange of money and valuable goods is tangible evidence of the sincerity of that unity.
This is the Torah of God, and there is only one Torah for both Gentile and Jew. Therefore Yeshua the Messiah said to his disciples, (Matthew 5:23) "If you are approaching the Altar at the Temple, and you recall that your brother is offended by you, leave your offering at the Altar, then go and reconcile with your brother, afterward return and present your offering."
Yeshua is telling us that our generous offerings have no significance if we have not been generous to others. He is also explaining that the Father cannot accept our offerings if we have not supported that offering with his Torah works. And this is why Yacov, the brother of Yeshua, likewise said (James 2:20,26), "Faith without (Torah) works is both useless and dead."
But when you do Teshuvoh you must also perform it with contrition, that is to say, you must have a certain level of sadness. Honest sadness is an emotion that projects personal sincerity, and the whole point of your effort is to re-establish trust with someone.
If you go to your neighbor, and say, "I have killed your ox." He will will be inflamed, and he may act against you before you do anything more. So you have to go to him with your restitution gift in your hands, and he says to you, "What is this for?" That is exactly what Yacov (Jacob) did when he met Essau (Genesis 33:10) in the field after spending 14 years away from him. Yacov said to Essau, "Please accept my gifts, for I see your face as the very face of God." This was Yacov’s expression of sadness and realization of how he had hurt Essau. Then, as Essau did, your friend might listen to you, and he may grieve or show anger, but afterward he is more likely to accept that you have repented — and also accept you.
But if you simply say to your friend, "I slept with your wife," or "I stole three of your chickens," it might sound more like boasting than doing Teshuvoh. And, unfortunately, I think a lot of people are boasting about their sins … and calling it repentance. We have to realize that our sins are grievous and have actually hurt someone. We have to admit to them and realize that they have brought us and our God to shame. And we should only confess our sins when we are covering that shame with the proper amendments and offerings.
Moreover, the purpose of repentance is to restore a relationship — that is the "dwelling" part of Teshuvoh. So your words must convey honest humility. Therefore you need to prepare what you will say, just as you have decided on what would be an appropriate gift for restitution. And you have to ask yourself, "Am I boasting, or am I humbling myself? And, am I getting something out this for me … am I just manipulating my friend, or am I honestly giving and restoring?"
Yet the truth is that you are indeed buying something for yourself. You are buying the faithfulness and trust of your neighbor, and the acceptance of God. Yeshua said that God will then accept your offerings to his Glory with complete pleasure. But you won’t acquire that purchase if you are not using the proper coins of the kingdom … and the coins are generosity and honesty.
Yeshua spoke of this coinage when he said (Matthew 3:8), "…their fruits (being their actions that are produced at a later time) must match their repentance (for everything to be satisfied). Yeshua the Messiah was saying that the quality of how we live together is our primary objective, and that quality is also the deciding "proof of life" itself. For without it our lives are full of dead and useless works.