From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Confession and Satisfaction
Thus, concerning restitution, Gregory says that repentance is false if it does not satisfy those whose property we have taken. Anyone who continues to steal is not truly sorry about theft or robbery. He is a thief or robber, so long as he unjustly possesses another’s property. This civil satisfaction is necessary, because it is written, “Let the thief no longer steal” (Eph 4:28). Chrysostom similarly says, “In the heart, contrition; in the mouth, confession; in the work, entire humility.” This amounts to nothing against us, for good works ought to follow repentance. Repentance should not be pretense, but a change of the entire life for the better.
Pulling It Together: Repentance means a changed mind. We might think of it as a change of heart. It follows that a real change of heart would include different fruits or results in that person’s life. What comes out of the mouth, or out of a life, originates in the heart (Matt 15:18). If a lie, it comes from a lying heart; if a kindness, it proceeds from a heart determined to be gracious. This does not mean that the repentant person is now perfect and always considerate to others. After all, that person is a fallible, human being. It does mean that when an unkind word is spoken, it is followed by grief, confession, and an apology. That is real repentance.
Prayer: Help me to be increasingly fruitful, Lord, as you continue to change my heart and turn my spirit toward you. Amen.
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The Letters of Paul looks at all but one of Paul's thirteen epistles and seeks to get at the heart of each one so that his message can inspire new hope, faith and love in us today.