What would you change about your past? Careful! It’s a trick question. We can make changes today, tomorrow, but not yesterday. Yet so many of us carry a pack full yesterdays on our back. This makes our walk as disciples doubly difficult.
Of course, I would do so many things differently if I had them to do over, but that’s just not a real possibility. My personal history is filled ignorance, rebellion, and poor choices—but today, that’s not the point! The real question is, how do I move forward with Jesus? And one surprising part of the answer is, “Repent!”
Last Thursday’s post brought emails, tweets, and Facebook-posts expressing surprise and doubts regarding this statement: "Repentance is not simply the doorway into life with God; it is the hallway as well" (There, I did it—I quoted myself. That’s a sure sign of an inflated ego!) So Monday’s Memo is just a small reflection on repentance.
The basics: “Repent” is the very first word of Good News ever preached. John the Baptist and Jesus alike declared that a new reality was breaking into the world; the Kingdom of God was at hand. The old ways of thinking and acting no longer applied. To repent means, literally, to re-think.
The meat: The scriptures reveal that it is possible to live a life without regret. Check this out: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (II Corinthians 7: 10) Who doesn’t have sorrow about the past? That’s OK. But Paul encourages his friends in Corinth to allow the Holy Spirit to breathe on such sorrow and allow it to be redeemed. Amazingly, Godly sorrow means a life free from regret. Earthly-sorrow means a life of what-ifs.
The hope: The good news of the Kingdom of God is not simply about going to heaven when we die. It’s about heaven breaking into earth right now (see Matthew 6: 10). If we limit “salvation” to mean only going-to-heaven-when-we-die, then repentance is only about fire-insurance, but if we embrace the in-breaking Kingdom right now, then repentance means we can live regret-free!