True repentance is more than being sorry for what we did, or feeling guilty about what happened because of our actions or attitudes. Judas felt guilty about betraying Christ, but had no repentance. Here, in the middle of the Joseph story in Genesis we see true repentance:
Now, please let your servant stay as your slave instead of the young man so that he can go back with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father without the young man? I couldn’t bear to see how badly my father would be hurt.
Judah says this to Joseph to try and protect Benjamin from becoming a slave. Joseph had been coordinating lots of events and situations to make his brothers feel their guilt at selling him into slavery ever since they came to Egypt to buy grain because of the famine. Now he had a silver cup of his hidden in Benjamin’s sack in order to keep Benjamin in Egypt. What Joseph did not expect was Judah’s response.
Remember, it was Judah who had the idea to sell Joseph into slavery in the first place. And we are told during this scene that Joseph had begged for mercy, and that the brothers saw that Joseph’s life was in danger, but they were so filled with hatred and jealousy that they sold him regardless of the pleas from their own brother. Now it is Judah who is willing to become a slave himself in order to save his brother, Benjamin.
This is complete repentance. Judah is willing to pay the price for what he had done earlier in life. He not only was sorry or guilty for what he did to Joseph, he was willing to do something tangible in his life to show he was remorseful and try to put things right as much as he could.
When we are guilty about some sin in our lives, remember that true repentance involves taking action to try and correct or rectify the situation as much as is possible. It is not enough to be sorry or feel guilty. Repenting is completely turning away from past behavior and moving in a new direction. That is exactly what Judah did.