I should like to write about what it means to repent. People see that word or hear it and think often of hell fire and brimstone preaching. To others they hear, ‘You are bad, now change.’ The word originally means ‘change the way you are thinking’. Jesus is inviting people into a new life and calling for a new way of looking at God, believing in God if you will. God is not ‘out there’ and we have to exhibit some very good behavior or perform some ritual to access God. No, God is with us said Jesus, with the lowliest, the humble and any who desire his love and want to place their confidence in him. God is with the sinner and the saint. Jesus says, ‘Here is God, open your eyes, be born again, look at life in a brand new way. The old ways had its custodial duty of keeping people in check, holding the communities together but now the Kingdom that has existed forever has come into our midst in the reality of a person named Jesus. Place your trust in him. Watch him live his life, listen to his words and let him form his life within you. ‘Repent’ says to the ego within us, ‘be still and know God. Stop grabbing for things for yourself and realize that your life has more significance that what you claim.’
Repent means to change your heart from being hard and self-seeking. Soften up and let Christ direct your ways. Repentance has little to do with external ceremonies and everything to do with an inner transformation through prayer and study as well as community. ‘Here’s the kingdom,’ says Jesus, ‘welcome this new life and yes, shed the old life and the old ways. Be ready for something new, brand new.’
And such an inner transformation will necessarily lead to an outer life that is transformed as well. The more we know that we are forgiven by God and the more that Christ teaches us about forgiveness, the result will be that we become forgiving apprentices of Jesus. Everything will change and when we fail we depend upon God’s graciousness to forgive us, pull us up and push us forward into new endeavors.