When you imagine someone yelling: “repent! repent!” what is your first reaction?
Do you get ready to duck a Bible thumpin’? Do you get ready to hear a hell, fire, and brimstone rant? Yeah. Its one of those words that has really turned most of us off because it is always used in the context of telling people “you are WRONG… you are BAD… you are DOOMED”.
It’s a shame because the word that got translated ‘repent’ in the Bible didn’t have all that kind of baggage… the word was metanoia (an ancient Greek word) that means to “change one’s mind and transform one’s heart”. Metanoia was evidenced by a change, for the better, in thought and action.
Recently, our six year old got very angry that his sister wouldn’t play a particular game with him. He was angry (way more angry than he should have been) and nasty… calling her names, acting aggressively… he even drew a picture of how much he hated her, at that moment, and slid it under her door. Eventually, his behavior landed him in a time-out in his bedroom… where he was now stomping around while crying and growling at the same time. My wife and I let him alone while he cooled off… and we were hoping very hard that he would become reasonable again… that he would trade his anger and nastiness for his usual happy good-nature. We were hoping he would experience ‘metanoia’.
While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now God commands all people everywhere to repent, because God has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness, by the one whom he has appointed [Jesus]
Similar to ‘repent’… ‘judge’ and ‘righteousness’ can really give us a sour taste in our mouths. But, these too were originally meant to be positive and graceful words. When we hear these words delivered as part of the message of Jesus we should always take them like this:
God has given us some space and encouragement to become good-natured and reasonable… some space in which our mistakes and missteps give way to a new start.
When our six year old ‘changed his mind’ his thoughts and actions improved. Far from yelling ‘repent! repent!’ we gave him some space and encouraged him.
We don’t need to be told we are wrong, bad, or doomed all the time… we need space to change our minds and transform our hearts.
How much further could all of us go with such a ‘repentance’?