Remorse and Repentance

Francisco Goya was a Spanish painter who was very important in the art world. His long career and immense success made him known as the last of the Old Masters art movement and the first of the next movement, the Moderns. It’s hard enough to be apart of one era, much less two. Towards the end of his life, his paintings grew progressively darker and pessimistic. Just look at his painting, Saturn Devouring His Son. It is said that he became disillusioned by the political and social developments in Spain and lived in near isolation towards the end of his life. This painting was done four years before his death.

It shows St. Peter in tearful repentance after his denial of Christ. This rendition is often compared to the artist El Greco’s painting of the same subject matter done some 200 years earlier (see below). Similarities include Peter’s white hair, yellow cloak, blue tunic, and the “Keys of Heaven” by his side. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Have you ever pondered how horrible Peter must have felt after his denial of Jesus? The Bible says he “wept bitterly.” I have many regrets in my life, but I wonder if I have ever known the depth of remorse Peter possibly felt.

Thank God Peter was able to move from remorse to repentance. The difference between the two is described by Paul when he says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Worldly grief—remorse—looks at what you have done and produces regret, and regret produces shame. Repentance, on the other hand, is godly grief that drives you to God’s grace. Remorse leads you to hate yourself; repentance leads you to hate your sin — and drives you to the grace of God.

Being Human Connection: I’m sure Peter hated himself, but he was restored to his rightful position as a fault-filled yet forgiven child of God. You are the same. Peter goes from being a failure to being the rock on which the church was built, holding the keys of heaven. Quite the transformation! But that is what our God is in the business of doing—transforming. Don’t get stuck in remorse. Repent and know you are forgiven and free. Like Peter.

Featured art:

Above: Francisco Goya, The Repentant St. Peter, 1824, The Phillips Collection.

Below: El Greco, The Tears of Saint Peter, 1587-1596, Museo Soumaya, Mexico City