Is she truly repentant or is she faking?
Is she truly repentant or is she faking?

Weekend Talk: Types of repentance

When the idea of writing about repentance first came to me, I thought I would talk about how to repent!  But how can anyone possibly presume that repentance can be taught or learnt?


Yet, “types of repentance,” which I settled on, only deepen the presumption and raise the curiosity surrounding the subject.  

Then I chanced upon two skilled mourners at a funeral who amazed me with their tutorials on how to cry.  So I reasoned that, “How to repent” may not be out of place to discuss after all.

Fake mourners

The two mourners were busily crying when one of them stopped abruptly and scolded her counterpart. “You don’t know how to cry,” she said.

“Let me show you how to cry?”

Thereupon, the tutor began to demonstrate how to properly cry at a funeral, while her colleague watched.  And the teacher-mourner did it so perfectly that I almost cried along, although I knew she was faking.

Faking!  That is one of human beings’ expert behaviours.  We know how to make something look real when, in fact, we are only faking.  

Thus, we are capable of faking repentance and making it look real.  Hopefully, by examining types of repentance, we may be able to recognise what is fake and what is real.

To be real

We want to be real, not fake when it comes to something as crucial as repentance.  For, the first sentence Jesus uttered when he began his ministry was “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).

Similarly, when John the Baptist appeared on the scene, he came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

The Amplified Bible expounds on repentance as “change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God's purpose for your life” (Matthew 3:2).

We repent when we recognise and acknowledge our wrongdoing, our wayward manner of living and our sinfulness against Almighty God; then seek his forgiveness to return to Him.

Any form of “repentance” that does not include acknowledging our sinfulness, forsaking our sins and returning to God will be unreal and incomplete. 

So, the main purpose of repentance is to do a U-turn from going astray back to God.  If we are not ready to turn to God and relate to him as our Father, we will not genuinely repent.

Temporary repentance

Temporary repentance is to regret our wrongdoing for a while after being convicted, only to fall back into our sinful way of life. 

The people who best exemplified temporary repentance were the Israelites after they settled on their Promised Land.  Every time the nation turned away from God, he allowed the neighbouring nations to torment them.

Then, when a prophet reprimanded them, they turned to God for a short time.  Soon, they turned their back on God again until they suffered enemy defeat and returned to God temporarily.

Today, a lot of temporary repentance takes place during church programmes or evangelism when people rush forward in response to the altar call.  Some of them do this temporarily to please people. 

To “repent” to please people is not worth the emotion.  Temporary repentance lacks commitment to a lifelong relationship with God.

False repentance

Anything false is fake, so a false repentance is when a person goes through the emotion of feeling sorry, but only in pretence.  A typical example was Pharoah king of Egypt.

“Let my people go,” God told the king through his servant Moses.  Because Pharaoh didn’t want to release the Israelites, and yet feeling the heat of God’s wrath, he acted as if he was repentant, but always changed his mind.


Even after the tenth plaque when he let the people go, Pharaoh changed his mind again and chased them with the cream of his soldiers.  His indecision caused their drowning in the Red Sea.

Also, Judas Iscariot’s statement to the Jewish council, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” was only a false repentance.  He was remorseful but not repentant.  Failing to return to Christ and committing suicide worsened his plight.

We only deceive ourselves if we go through the emotion of repentance falsely.

Genuine repentance

As already noted, genuine repentance is when a person acknowledges their wrongdoing, confesses it, asks for forgiveness and turns away from the wrong.


Peter wilfully denied Jesus.  When he realised what he had done, he wept bitterly; he didn’t go away from the Lord.  Instead, he made a U-turn back to his Master and served him faithfully the rest of his life. 

Next week: God willing, when we return to this subject next week, we’ll look at other types of repentance such as the prodigal son and King David, and ask about repentance in the “sinner’s prayer”.

The writer is a publisher, author, writer-trainer and CEO of Step Publishers.
E-mail: [email protected]

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