RS / MP Lesson 19: “Repentance”

The manual starts of with a question and a statement that seem obvious enough: “What is sin?” and “Faith in Jesus Christ naturally leads to repentance.” I don’t know, but maybe it was that blatant obviousness that got me wondering just how obvious they really are.

1. “What is sin?” Why should a discussion of repentance start with a discussion of sin? Can we only repent of sins, or can we repent of other things? Is repenting only changing bad behavior or is it a return to better behavior? In other words, if I had been doing something I was justified in doing—something legal, not proscribed, etc.—something that might be considered a “lower law,” and then determined to live a “higher law,” could that be viewed as a type of repentance—and in that sense a repentance that did not first involve sin? Is that a useful way to think about repentance, or am I just playing around with semantics? Is this one way to think about the Old Testament uses of the phrase “And the Lord repented…”?

At any rate, sin is certainly involved in some repentance (if not all). So what is sin? Many of our scriptures seem to view sin as an actual substance—thus we can be “cleansed from sin.” Is that wording literal? If it isn’t, what is the consequence of viewing it as literal? (I can remember that for years and years I thought of the spirit as getting literally dirtied by sin as if by some physical substance; I no longer view it that way, but wonder how many others do.) Still other scriptures discuss sin as a burden or as any offense. How could those definitions of sin change the way we approach repenting of them? (Note: I think that could actually be a useful approach to teaching this lesson: write “substance,” “offense,” and “burden” on the board and discuss the different ways one would try to become free from them, etc.)

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