We often have a shallow understanding of repentance. In our study in Matthew, John the Baptist calls the people to “Repent, for the Reign of God has arrived!” (my translation) What does that mean and what does it mean now – for today’s disciples? Here is a portion of a poem by Orthodox poet Scott Cairns and an article by Frederica Mathewes-Green. They help to remind us that it is ‘repentance that brings hope and joy!’
Cairns ends his poem by contrasting false and true repentance:
The heart’s metanoia,
on the other hand, turns
without regret, turns not
so much away, as toward,
as if the slow pilgrim
has been surprised to find
that sin is not so bad
as it is a waste of time.
[from Adventures in New Testament Greek: Metanoia in the anthology, Compass of Affection, p. 93, Paraclete Press, 2006.]
and the article from Frederica Mathewes-Green:
Whatever Happened to Repentance [first published in Christianity Today, Feb. 2002 and available on her website.]
Forget what the Billboard charts say; to judge from church ads in the Yellow Pages, America’s favorite song is “I’m Mr. Lonely.” Churches are quick to spot that need and promise eagerly that they will be friendly, or be family, or just care. Apparently this is the church’s principal product. When people need tires, they look up a tire store; when they start having those bad-sad-mad feelings, they shop for a church.
Here, for once, denominational and political divisions vanish. Churches across the spectrum compete to display their capacity for caring, though each has its own way of making the pitch. The Tabernacle, a “spirit-filled, multi-cultured church,” pleads, “Come let us love you,” while the Bible Way Temple is more formal, if not downright odd: “A church where no stranger need feel strangely.” (The only response that comes to mind is “Thank thee.”) One church sign in South Carolina announced, “Where Jesus is Lord and everybody is special,” which made it sound like second prize. And one Methodist congregation tries to get it all in: “A Christ-centered church where you can make new friends and form lasting relationships with people who care about you.”
But when Jesus preached, he did not spend a lot of time on “caring.” The first time we see him, in the first Gospel, the first instruction he gives is “Repent” (Mark 1:15). From then on, it’s his most consistent message. Continue Reading…