When I was in college, back in the mid- 80s, I was a residential assistant on the football players floor of a small Lutheran college in Iowa. One of the things I found myself doing as an R.A., though it was not in my job description, was to pick up “my boys” from the local bar on Wednesday nights, whenever Rosie, the owner of the bar, would call me and bark four words into the phone, “Get your boys, now!” And when I got them back to our dormitory, the kneeling, the wailing, the lamenting, and the prayers before the porcelain thrones began. “O God, please, please, God! Help me through this and I promise I’d never, ever would do this again.” And because God is good, he heard their prayers and accepted their promises, … until, of course, the following Wednesday night when the same pleas and prayers would be offered up before the “thrones”, again, and again.
What “my boys” did was an example of what I call, a “half-way repentance.”
Now, having been a Lutheran pastor for the last 30 years, I know and have seen my shares of this kind of repentance, both in my own life and in the lives of my parishioners. I know what it’s like to have learned the errors of my ways, and promising to never do it again, but only to repeat the same mistake, over and over again. When that happens, there’s no full or complete repentance – only a half of one.
So what is repentance?
Well, repentance is the noun of the verb, repent, a word that our Lord Jesus used often in the Gospels. To repent or metanoia in the original Greek simply means “to have a change of mind, or attitude.” But to fully repent of our actions, behaviors, and attitudes requires two steps.
The first, we must acknowledge, own up and confess the sin in our lives – the ways that we’re heading in the wrong direction from God.
The second step is to turn around, or turn away, like making a U-turn, from the sin that kept you away from God. Unfortunately, this second step is the hardest for many of us, yet it’s the part that completes the act of repentance.
In the Bible, Jesus commanded those who were living life as if there’s no God to turn around and be in relationship with the One true God. In Matthew 4:17, we read that, “Jesus began to proclaim (to preach), ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” And in Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “ ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”
Here’s the good news. Jesus, the Son of God came into the world, lived among us, and brought the whole reign of God into our midst. The Kingdom of God is upon us, indeed. But we often miss its joy and power because we’re heading the wrong way.
Well, it’s not too late. What’s even better news is that Jesus who brought near the Kingdom of God will do it again and will usher in the full power and glory of God for us all to revel in awe and praises. So, repent. Acknowledge and confess your ways, your mindsets and your attitudes which likely will detour you from experiencing that glorious Kingdom of God. Amen.