Some words are off-putting, like rancid bacon slowly turning green in the back drawer of the fridge.
One of these words, frequently used and misused within churchified Christian circles, is “repent,” which brings to mind debasement and public humiliation as the acolyte stumbles forth — just as they are — to the altar or playing field in the football stadium, pronouncing to all their status as reptilian reprobates who have been brought to a state of subjection and submission.
How odd that their first prayer to the God of mercy is one of degradation, advanced before a community of silent watchers. One wonders why the evangelist, or the pastor, or the speaker doesn’t reference Matthew 6:6, and encourage the listener to speak privately, with dignity, to their newly discovered Father — but then again, it’s so much more exciting and profitable to see the people teeming forth like lemmings, in tandem with soft, hypnotic music droning in the background. (And unless you see who they are, you can’t send converts through the sheep chute to the various churches — of disparate denominations, many of which disagree with one another — which sponsor the speaker.)
Some people, given the opportunity, “repent” in public any chance they get, never secure in the knowledge that they are a precious child of God, and convinced that their Father needs them to announce, over and over and over again, how repugnant they are.
Others, confident that the first time they did it bought them a righteousness that shines forth more brightly than the loathsome lives of smokers, drinkers, people who swear, and other clear sinners who exhibit their impurity by how they dress, act, or think, see repentance as something other people must do — multiple times — until their lives are in line with all that is good and proper.
We Are Not Called to Debasement
But repentance is not meant to be a debasing, degrading action. A simple Internet search of “What does metanoeó (the Greek word we translate as repent) mean?” results in a number of articles addressing the difficulty of the word, namely that we have no one word in English (or presumably, any language outside of Greek) to give a good definition. My own Greek/English interlinear Bible defines the word as, “to change one’s mind.”
To change one’s mind. To alter the way one thinks.
This concept is one we can all embrace, regardless of our public or privately held spiritual status, and indeed, for those of us who call ourselves Christian, it is a good, healthy, wise, and nourishing thing to consider our unquestioning — literally thoughtless — interpretation of God, and see if we would benefit in our relationship by changing how we think.
Who Is God, and What Is He Like?
Is He really a God who monitors our every thought for holiness, and disciplines us, harshly, when we doubt, or get angry, or swear, or scheme? (If this were so, especially regarding the latter word, many prominent “Christians” would be reduced to a pile of gently smoking ashes.)
Does He hold out, like a carrot to an ass, the promise of peace and joy and freedom from anxiety, but ONLY if we abandon ourselves, completely, into His hands? And as we doubt, or don’t have the amount of faith that we are constantly berated for not having, does He snatch the carrot away? (Could it possibly be that we are reliant upon Him, as we are for everything else, for this faith?)
Does He keep track of our “quiet time” and “study time” and “prayer time,” withholding growth and goodness until the hours add up?
Is He so very concerned about our being “purposeful,” and “transparent,” and “submissive to leadership,” and “intentional,” and “positive,” and “a member of community” that when we are not these things, according to those who audit our compliance, then we are in His disfavor?
For that matter, is there some reason why we are constantly in His disfavor?
If this is how we think about Him — and as a survivor of too many years of attendance at establishment, industrial Christian churches that operate more like corporations than they do assemblages of human believers — I have seen, and continue to see, many believers struggling with this irritable, capricious, erratic, and unpredictable despot. It is no wonder that they cannot grow close to a father like this — no one should.
But if we repent — if we change our way of thinking — stopping ourselves when we’re tempted to say, “Oh, God will get you out of your comfort zone!” and reflect, instead, “As a parent, I do my best to gently guide and teach my children; God as my Father surely can’t have something to learn from me,” then we can begin to understand more about this Counselor, this Comforter, this Creator, this Perfect Father who doesn’t yell or slam doors or thrash us or leave the room — and our lives — until we improve our behavior.
It won’t happen instantly, in a football stadium, say, or at a monthly altar call, and indeed, the repentance that we’re looking for — that true changing of mind that allows us to drop the lies as we reach for truth — isn’t likely to happen in such a forced, artificial environment. It will happen on a daily and moment by moment basis, privately, as we grow more confident in the gracious, merciful, and loving nature of our Father.
Let’s truly change our way of thinking.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where that’s what I do — I write. I don’t get paid for this, and I don’t have the worldly resources behind me to generate and create a “following” — but there are things that need to be said, so I say them. Thankfully, more and more people are questioning the things they are told, and more and more people — ordinary ones who aren’t promoted by the corporate arm of spirituality to keep us from opening our eyes — are speaking up.
It is my prayer that these essays will reach the eyes of seekers who know that something is wrong, but can’t put their finger on it. If what I say helps you, then please pass it on, because we live in a time when too many sleepy sheep are sweetly dozing to the lullabies sung by wolves.