Concerning the Invitation to Sinners by God the Lover of Mankind
Through all of the prophets, God has invited all those who have sinned to repentance.
Through the Prophet MalachI He summons them thus: “Return to Me, and I will return to you, saith the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 3:7).
Through the Prophet Jeremiah He admonishes: “Return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good” (Jer. 18:11).
Through the Prophet Isaiah He affirms: “I am God, and there is not another beside Me: a just God and a Savior: there is none but Me. Turn ye to Me, and ye shall be saved, ye that come from the end of the earth” (Isa. 45:21-22).
God summons us to repentance through the Prophet Joel saying: “Turn to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with lamentation: and rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is merciful and compassionate, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy, and repents of evils” (Joel 2:12-13).
Through the Prophet Zechariah, God invites the sinner, saying, “Turn to Me, and I will turn to you, saith the Lord Almighty” (Zch. 1:2).
And through the Prophet Ezekiel He declares: “For I desire not the death of him that dies. Be converted, and turn from all your ungodliness; for why should ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezk. 18:30-31).
The Forerunner (Saint John the Baptist) was the herald of repentance. The Savior Himself came preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). The divine Chrysostom, interpreting this verse, says:“Come, not some person, but everyone who has worries, who has sorrows, who has sins. Come, not so that I may demand accountability, but so that I may loosen your sins. Come, not because I am in need of your praise, but because I desire your salvation; for I will give you rest. He did not say ‘I will save’ only, but even much more: ‘so that I may make everyone secure.’ Moreover, in order to show the profound loving-kindness of God toward mankind and so that He may render the sinners more fervent towards repentance, He reveals to them the mysteries of Heaven: ‘joy (He says) shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance’ (Lk. 15:7).”
From Repentance and Confession by Saint Nektarios, Bishop of Pentapolis, translated and published by Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery, Roscoe, NY