I was driving to work the other morning and came across a couple of well meaning people on a very busy intersection. You know the type, they had big placards letting people know “Repent” the End is near” followed up with Jesus loves you, it struck me that I would bet no one has ever come to faith in Christ or turned from sin to repentance based on a guy messing up traffic on a busy corner shouting into a bull horn about the end of the world is just around the bend, it might be but I am certain there are better ways to get the word out.
That got me thinking about real repentance and what it really means. “Metanoia, a Greek word that gives the idea of a radical alteration and conversion of our whole mental process and allows God to take a real and permanent place in our lives, and our hearts. It boils down to “a change of mind”. We in the church may call it a conversion; the word appears often in the Gospels and is most often represented as the word “repent” in our translations.
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” These are the words of Jesus in Mark’s gospel and they represent a summary of the entire Biblical text. But what does that really mean to the “guy on the street” “regular working class guy” Joe six pack as I am always saying, you and me.
So often we come across this word repent and think it is the idea that we just need to feel regret for some bone headed thing we just said or did and we are now going to try oh so hard not to do it again. The Bible has another thought in mind, metanoia or our change of mind is more like doing a complete about face, or turning from one direction and head off in another. In Zech 1:3 the Lord reminds us to turn, and if we turn toward Him he will return to us, wow. “ Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty
Each of us have the potential to turn, we can turn in either direction, toward or away but the choice is ours. We have within us the ability to let Christ’s love shine through us, we can become a new person in Him. When we are overwhelmed by an emotion, name it, love, guilt, shame, compassion, tension, anger. We can let Him carry us through it, only if we are willing to embrace His gift of acceptance and love.
When Jesus asks us to “repent”, metanoia, he is asking us to stop identifying with the burden of this world and in its place begin to live as if we understand our standing is based on Him not US, it is through Him that we can be confident that we are forgiven.
When we grasp metanoia and all it represents, it literally means we can get beyond our present situation, our stuck in the mud way of seeing things and see that the life we can live with Jesus’ help is one well worth living.
We can praise God freely; speak words of reconciliation and love to each other. When we really repent we can let God reign in us, we can become so filled with compassion for those around us, friends, foes, those we know and those we come across on a daily basis, when we do really turn and face a completely new direction.