True repentance is admitting we have sinned, being sorry because we know that we have hurt someone and we make a promise not to sin again with God’s help.

There are two beautiful stories in the Bible that help us to understand the meaning of repentance and the difference between perfect and imperfect repentance. One story is the parable of the Prodigal Son and the other is the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son the young man repented for his sins against his father only after he had spent all his money on sinful pleasures and had nothing left. The only job he could find was to look after pigs and he was not given even the food that the pigs ate. Once he realized that the servants in his father’s house had much more than he did, he decided to return home and ask his father to take him back as a servant since he was not worthy to be called his son. This is imperfect repentance. Zacchaeus on the other hand knew he was a sinner. In his job as a tax collector, he had cheated many people. When Jesus met Zacchaeus and told him that he would be dining in his home, he was happy and grateful for this sign of mercy. He promised to repay much more than he had stolen. Jesus praised him and said that salvation had come to his home that day. This is perfect repentance and is much more pleasing to God than imperfect repentance.