By Rev SEIK PITOI
THE call to repentance and turning back to God is a biblical practice. Scripture is replete with stories of how the nation of Israel faltered and succumbed to temptation and sin, only to have a prophetic voice raised up to call the nation back to God. Modern history also shows us the practice by certain leaders of nations to call forth their people to nationwide repentance.
United States presidents since George Washington are known to have issued decrees calling for nationwide repentance and prayer. There was a genuine acknowledgement of the need to turn back to God when facing an impending crisis.
In Noah’s day, God decided to destroy the inhabitants of the Earth because of their wickedness (Gen 6: 5, 6). First, though, he sent Noah to preach repentance. God gave that society 120 years of great prosperity and time to repent. In Luke 17:27, Jesus said they ate, drank, married, and were given in marriage.
They were happy, society was booming, and construction was going up everywhere. However, they forgot God. No one had time to listen to God’s preacher. Soon, the ark was built – and judgment flooded over all the earth.
Jonah is another great example. This reluctant preacher preferred not to obey God’s instruction to preach to the most feared people of Nineveh, and high-tailed it the other way to Tarshish. But God used a large fish to bring him back to his senses and to dry land. Then when the word of God came to him the second time, he obliged. Walking around the city for three full days preaching repentance, the message finally got through. Everyone, from the king down repented, and the city was spared (Jonah 3).
So what has this got to do with us in Papua New Guinea? What significance does a special day like National Repentance Day have for us?
PNG is called a Christian country. Our founding fathers made sure that was included in the preamble of our constitution. Yet, many do not realise the severe consequence of making such a claim. If we are Christians, then Christ alone is lord over our lives, and indeed, over our nation. As someone once said: “Either Jesus is Lord of all, or he is not lord at all.”
To be lord means he alone is sovereign, with no one else besides, beneath, nor above him. That means no other religious figure can claim to be the focus of our worship – not any imported, nor even from our tumbuna’s collection. To be lord means his word and his ways are higher – not as we think and feel is right according to our culture. To be lord means his culture of love and forgiveness must be the hallmark of our conduct towards one another – not stealing, tribal fights, rape and murder.
PNG is a prosperous country. We boast about being a land of gold floating on a sea of oil. Business is booming and construction is happening everywhere.
But is it possible to be blinded by the blessings of God that we forget God himself? Is it possible that amid all the prosperity, we are marginalising people in their own land? Didn’t the prophet Amos make that charge against the rich leaders of Israel for their oppression of the “little” people? (Amos 4: 1ff).
I believe there is much for this nation to fall down and repent of. The prophetic voice of the Lord is calling PNG to repentance. Some principles can be gleaned from 2 Chronicles 7 verse 14:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
In the Old Testament it was Israel. In the New Testament, it is the Church. Everyone who bears the name of Christ (Christian), are the key players in this exercise.
Humble requires a humbling down of one’s self. It means acknowledging we are sinners, we have done wrong to God and to one another.
Humility is the opposite of pride. Highlanders for highlanders, Morobeans for Morobeans, Papuans for Papuans. Ethnic pride. Even denominational pride in churches makes it hard for one to be humble and see another as his brother. The people of PNG need to bow down before God in humility.
Praying: How full are our prayer meetings in our churches? In a church I know, you get more people to a singing and feasting night than to a prayer night where only five or six people attend.
Prayer today is only for an emergency, while prophetic prosperity conferences are filled to the brim. If prayer is breathing, then the church is slowly suffocating. May PNG churches rise up in prayer and fasting.
Seeking God’s face: We should seek not his hand for more wealth, not his mind for more wisdom, but his face so we can know him intimately and be more like him.
Seeking his face helps us to see that same face in one another.
The Greek word for repent is metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind (or a 180-degree change of direction). This is different to metamelomai which means to be sorry, regret.
Matt 3:8 says repentance must have fruit. That means, we should not take this day as just a day to go through the formalities, but there must be genuine change in our lives. Is there fruit in our Repentance Day observations, or are we continuing with sin?
There’s nothing much to say about God’s part except that he keeps his word. He is gracious and loves us so much despite our shortcomings. His part of the bargain will no doubt be kept. Yes, he does listen to our prayers, and in his grace, He forgives. And, certainly, he can and will heal our great land of PNG. But only, when we as his people do our part.
On this special Repentance Day for 2017, May God grant a fresh outpouring of his grace and spirit upon our land. May our hearts quietly feel his love as we pray.
Let us pray: “Father of all nations and of ours, breathe upon this great land. Forgive and cleanse us from the sins we as your people have committed. Forgive us for hate, envy, jealousy, and murder in our hearts. Forgive us too for being unkind in word and deed to those of another skin colour – while still claiming to be your people. Forgive us for turning away from you, Lord. Every one of us – leaders and the people alike – have all failed you. We repent and say sorry. Father, cleanse and renew us by your grace. Then, lift us up to new heights so we can walk with you in victory. May you cause your countenance to shine in a brighter way upon Papua New Guinea, and give us all your peace”
- Rev Seik Pitoi is the pastor at Sister Fairhall Memorial Church at Gordon