Last week, McKrae Game (who founded a “conversion therapy” org) publicly renounced his past actions. McKrae, the founder of Hope for Wholeness, said in an interview with The Post and Courier that his organization has “harmed generations of people.” Earlier, in a Facebook post published on August 25, he started a long post with the words “I WAS WRONG! Please forgive me!”
I’ve seen a variety of responses. Some choose to just mock them. After all, they have a proven track-record of exploitation and harm.
Many others suggest that we should take them at their word and show grace. After all, who are we to judge their hearts?
Nobody has asked for my opinion, but here it is.
I believe in transformation and redemption. I think we should take McKrae and Hinn at their word that they are sorry.
But, for Christians, I don’t believe the Gospel allows us to stop there.
Any public repentance without making amends to those who have been harmed isn’t repentance.
What did Jesus do when the Rich Young Man came to him? He took him seriously but then told him to redistribute his wealth the poor. Rich dude went away sad, because he wasn’t able to follow through with that. By the way, Jesus didn’t just ask this of Richie Rich because he saw into his secret heart (or at least, that isn’t how the story is presented). He actually called for such redistribution several times in the Gospel of Luke. It is a whole theme of Luke/Acts that, for the rich to be a part of the Kingdom of God, they must do jubilee.
Zacchaeus, of his own initiative, seemed to take Jesus’ message to heart and made economic amends. He’s like the Gospel of Luke’s case-study of faithfulness.
I believe these examples show us what repentance should look like from oppressors and exploiters. That there needs to be relinquishment of power and wealth and restitution.
We don’t need to judge someone’s hearts to ask them to make amends. If we cannot ask folks to make amends, then we don’t have a very deep understanding of the Gospel.
A call to repentance isn’t about simply asking folks to change their hearts without action. Never, from the ministry of John the Baptist to the teachings and actions of Jesus to the continued ministry of the Apostles, do we see such an understanding that repentance is simply about someone recognizing that they were wrong without a corresponding change in behavior. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see this idea that “interior heart change” is the same thing as repentance.
If someone has been unjust, toxic, exploitative, abusive, and they apologize, we aren’t under any sort of obligation to have to simply take them at their word and extend them full grace. Even if we’re in a place to forgive them, it is important, for both ourselves and those who are apologizing, to tell them that their apology needs to come with action.
A change of heart isn’t an interior event. It is a holistic transformation or it isn’t a transformation at all.