Scrooge and the Joy of Repentance
Last night, dear hubby, a houseguest, and I watched one of my all-time favorite movies: A Christmas Carol. I treat myself to an early viewing every year – before the Christmas rush comes and I start saying Scroogisms, like “I have so much to do! Bah, humbug.”
I’ve always thought that the story of Scrooge makes a wonderful parallel to Christian repentance. This was brought home to me even more deeply when I read, “Repentance,” by Ed Anton. This wonderful book briefly cites a Christmas Carol. More importantly, it is a thorough study of what Biblical repentance really means and how essential it is to an understanding of the gospel. I can’t recommend the book enough.
Anyhow, back to Scrooge. Of course, Christian repentance has nothing to do with Christmas ghosts. Our repentance is motivated by conviction from the Holy Spirit and is based on what Christ has done for us on the cross and through his resurrection. We are not visited by ghosts, but by flesh and blood Christians -- Christians who have experienced repentance and forgiveness themselves. These people lovingly hold out the gospel to us when we are lost. They lovingly keep calling us to repentance once we have become Christians. Despite the fact that Scrooge's motivation is different than the Christian's, the story of Scrooge is a good depiction of what true Christian repentance looks like.
First, Scrooge is confronted about his past, his present, and where his future is going if he does not change. Realizing the truth about himself sets his feet on the path to change. At one point, he is almost overcome with horror at the way he has lived his life. This sorrow is not yet the point of repentance, but it will take him there.
As 2 Corinthians says, "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." Worldly sorrow cries over sin, but, in the end, does not change. Thus, worldly sorrow falls short of repentance, and it leads to death. Likewise, Godly sorrow is not the same thing as repentance, either. But, unlike worldly sorrow, godly sorrow is a catalyst that gets us to repentance. Godly sorrow has both the desire to truly change and the faith that, through Christ, repentance and forgiveness are possible.
At this point, Scrooge "gets the message". He changes his entire mindset – his whole way of looking at life. He puts away his pride, his selfishness, and his stinginess and he embraces humilty, unselfishness, and generosity. He turns his value system upside down; what was the most important thing in his life is now the least, and vice versa. He looks forward to a new way of thinking and living. Now, he has arrived at repentance!
Scrooge then falls into his grave – a picture of our dying to sin and self. It is also a picture of baptism: As it says in Romans 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
A few moments later, Scrooge awakens to his new life! He has experienced the twin joys of repentance and forgiveness, and he is forever altered. He does not sit around and moan over his lost years or the pain he has caused through his evil deeds -- as I am so often tempted to do. Scrooge's past was done away with in the grave. Scrooge is grateful. He leaves the past behind and looks forward to the future.
Scrooge is hopeful. He is joyful. He has new values. He has a new heart. He is a new man. He gleefully looks for ways to put his new way of thinking into action.
This new heart of Scrooges shows itself in the things he does. He happily purchases a huge turkey and has it sent to Bob Cratchett’s house. He gets dressed and runs to church, where he joins in the singing. He makes peace with his nephew and his nephew’s wife, both of whom he had spurned, and he spends a wonderful afternoon at their home.
The next day, while Scrooge waits for Bob Crachett to arrive, he echoes the sentiments of many a Christian: "I don't deserve to be so happy. But, I am."
When Bob first arrives, he is unaware that Scrooge has undergone such a dramatic change of heart. Scrooge plays a practical joke on him, offers him a raise, and breaks into laughter. All of this is so unlike the old Scrooge that Bob suspects that Scrooge has taken leave of his senses.
“No. I’ve come to them,” says Scrooge.
Bob’s fears are relieved once he sees that Scrooge is sincere in wanting to be a better employer and a good friend to him.
The movie closes by telling us that Scrooge held to his "repentance" for the rest of his life. The transformation in Scrooge was inescapable, and everyone marveled at it. Some even laughed at the changes in him, but Scrooge didn’t care. His own heart laughed, and that was enough for him.