‘Repent’ in Greek: To change one’s mind or purpose. To think differently. Reconsider.
Perhaps we could also look at it as a transformative change of heart. A change of our minds and a change in character.
Perhaps it is also helpful to hear that ‘repentance’ involves a turning with regret from sin to God. This helps me, because it also brings a physicality to repenting. A physical turning.
There is something in Matthew 4 I want you to see, but I also want you to know context…Jesus was in the wilderness, tested by the devil, then heard John had been put into prison. The John the Baptist John, the one that paved the way for Jesus and the one who pointed to Jesus as Messiah. Jesus fulfilled prophecy through the Gospels, and Matthew 4:12-17 is no different:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (quoted from Isaiah 9:1-2)
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The ‘kingdom of heaven has come near,’ friends that is good news. That is God’s reign over the universe. That is not just the hope, but the declaration that God is actively restoring this world.
The problem is when ‘repent’ is used as a tool for bullying, not as a declaration of good news. Jesus was not a bully. He was sarcastic at times and acted on what we like to call righteous anger, but Jesus was not a bully.
When you read Jesus say, ‘repent,’ think of it as Jesus really saying, ‘Choose me, love me, trust me, spend time with me…I don’t want anything to separate us. I want you to be whole in me, not perfect, but whole, so that you are able to help me build the Kingdom of God.”
Can we hear that today? Truly hear it?
The phrase ‘wake up’ keeps running through my brain today, and it comes from an All Sons and Daughters song, ‘Wake Up.’ You can hear it here: https://youtu.be/QEv-pqyP_gY
Can we wake up?
Can we stand up?
Can we raise our hands up?
I have a tendency to think of repenting as a big thing, but I think my perspective needs to reframe it to a closeness with God thing. I am never going to be perfect. I am never going to be able to not sin literally every day, every hour. I am human, created in God’s image, but human. I tend to tell people that I know I can be an asshole, but the good news is that Jesus forgives assholes like me. It is an awareness thing that sin separates us from living wholly into our calling and into who God has created us to be. God knows it. Jesus knows it. And it is long past time that I know it.