Pretending To Be Sorry

“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.” – Gen. 31:24

Laban was warned in his dream not to treat Jacob harshly. But he continued to chase Jacob anyway. He was told not to harm Jacob, but he was so angry that he still threatened to hurt him. Laban didn’t want to be called a failure. He didn’t want people to think that his plans went wrong and that he had to return without doing what he intended to do. He felt he would be disgraced if he didn’t carry out all the furious threats he had made in front of everyone.

Laban is a good example of a hypocrite pretending to repent. Unbelievers often pretend to be truly sorry and say they’re going to change the way they think and act, but inside they know its a lie. When David admitted he had sinned (2 Samuel 12:13), it was entirely different from the time when Saul admitted he had sinned (1 Samuel 15:24). They used the same words, probably even the same tone of voice, and showed the same feeling of remorse, but the motivation was quite different.

When unbelievers say they’re sorry for their sins, their sorrow is really the expression of disappointment that they will no longer be able to do what they want. They don’t really want to change their behavior. When thieves express sorrow, they mean they’re sorry they can’t steal anymore. Laban is portrayed in this same way. Deep down, he didn’t really repent. His sorrow was only an outward show. Those who are truly repentant aren’t afraid of anything except God’s anger and displeasure. They aren’t concerned about being humiliated and disgraced in front of other people as long as they know that God is on their side.

— Martin Luther from Faith Alone, July 13th.