Is Repentance Day necessary?

    BASED on reports received from church goers on Sunday morning, there were churches in the city who observed Repentance Day in their main services.
    There was time set aside at the end for prayer, repentance and intercession for the nation. As usual, the Parliament prayer gathering was on again very early on Sunday morning as God’s people gathered to pray and beseech God on behalf of the nation.
    Body of Christ chairman Rev Joseph Walters reported that many Christians went early to pray according to 2 Chron 7:14 for God’s mercy upon this nation. This continued on Monday morning when some congregations gathered to observe the occasion before dispersing to enjoy the rest of the public holiday.
    However, for the rest of the community, Sunday was a normal day followed by a nice extra public holiday on Monday. In typical PNG fashion, beer played the major part on the weekend with drunkards everywhere.
    As usual, the ovals and fields of sports were filled with people enjoying the holiday. With many business houses shutting down in respect of the day, workers naturally decided to enjoy the extra day off from work leisurely.
    This begs the question – is Repentance Day necessary?
    As a pastor who tries to emphasise the importance of Repentance Day each year, I decided to try and seek the opinion of those around me to gauge their views on this special day.
    I listened in to FM talk back shows leading up to the weekend, and logged on the internet to read comments on social media to assess the feeling of the people.
    Besides that, I got views from my congregation members and from others I met randomly to ask how they felt about the day. The result is quite interesting.
    For the main part, the majority of church-going Christians feel that the day is important in calling together the people of PNG – leaders and people alike – to consider our ways and express our remorse at how far away we are straying from God’s ideal purposes for this nation.
    Many feel that while we call ourselves a Christian country, our actual behaviour and practice tells otherwise. Indeed, we have so much to repent for.
    However, some had questions to ask and suggestions to make, such as:
  • One pastor said that in the days of Jonah, the King of Nineveh began the repentance (Jonah 3: 6). In our case, our equivalent is the Prime Minister, and he should begin the act of repentance each year since he approved the day.
  • One mother asked if repentance was necessary as we seem to read about spurious land deals and other corrupt practices increasing every year, despite our prayers for our leaders.
  •  One elder asked if all churches agreed to the day or was it just the work of a handful of Christian leaders purportedly speaking on behalf of others.
  •  Another elder asked what happens when business houses close and lose thousands of kina in business when the day is not even been observed properly. It defeats the purpose for the event. He suggested the closest Sunday to 26thAugust each year should be gazetted as the Repentance Day, and the following day Monday should be a normal work day.
  •  One youth member suggested that there already is a biblical repentance day – the Day of Atonement. That day, taken from the Jewish calendar, should be incorporated as our national Repentance Day rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’!
  • One mother suggests more awareness should be done in the weeks leading up to Repentance Day so people even in the villages will know what we mean when we mention the day. Some people looked at us quizzically when we asked them if they observed the day in the village.
    Finally, another youth member asked: “Why always at Parliament House? We always pray for Parliament but the guys who rule from there don’t all turn up. Also, we keep praying and they keep getting corrupt. Maybe we should move the prayer meeting to a more centralised place!”
    These and more were the views and thoughts I could gather from the people.
    As a pastor, I naturally have the scriptures ready to brush aside any differing view from what is accepted by the mainstream churches.
    However, I will admit that some suggestions got me thinking. Maybe there is a degree of truth in some of what is being expressed. Maybe some of these suggestions should be considered in future.
    For my denomination, though, many of us observed the occasion in our respective congregations on Sunday with special prayers for our nation. Then, on Monday morning we gathered at Waigani United Church for a combined United Church Repentance Day prayer session.
    Moderator Rt Rev Bernard Siai urged all united church congregations to observe and participate in this important day each year. Waigani UC youth beautifully led the repentance and intercessory sessions, as well as the worship service.
    After the service, Waigani was again chosen to host the combined Repentance Day service for 2019. Local minister Rev Rau Vetali challenged more united churches to join in next year’s Repentance Day.

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