True repentance does not stop with a change in our thinking, but continues with a change in our behavior. We have all experienced people in our lives who apologize to us over and over for the same offense, and yet their behavior never changes. After a while, the apologies begin to ring hollow.
Imagine that you are out for a long hike in the woods. After walking a while, you recognize that you have taken a wrong turn. You stop hiking in the wrong direction, turn around, and hike back toward the point where you took the wrong turn. That is repentance. First, you recognize that you have gone down the wrong path (your mind changes). Second, you turn around and take intentional steps in the right direction (your behavior changes).
A powerful picture of family healing is found in the account of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was the eleventh brother out of twelve. He was favored by Jacob, his father, and his older brothers were jealous of him, so much so that they sold him into slavery and told their father he had been devoured by wild animals. In Egypt, after many years, God delivered Joseph from slavery and elevated him to serve as Pharaoh’s second-in-command. God enabled Joseph to save the Egyptian people from an extended period of famine. However, the famine spread to Israel, and Joseph’s family was starving. Joseph’s father sent the ten brothers to Egypt to buy food. They appeared before Joseph but did not recognize him. Was there any hope for healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation? Joseph needed to know if his brothers had changed, or if they were the same selfish, angry, jealous men who had sold him into slavery.
Joseph devised a way to test them. He accused them of being spies and had them detained. He told them that he would believe their story if they were to return home and bring Benjamin, the youngest brother, back to
Judah offered his own life to save Benjamin! This was true repentance. It was at this moment that the floodgates of healing and reconciliation opened. Joseph could no longer control himself, cleared the room, and through many tears announced his true identity to his brothers. God then brought about a miraculous healing, reconciliation, and family reunion.
An excerpt from “Healing Family Relationships” by Rob Rienow: