Our planet reminds us of a word we don’t like to hear. As we speak, Earth is in the process of completing another revolution around the sun. It’s also about to finish another rotation on its axis.
The very ground beneath our feet constantly turns, and we’re told to turn as well, on a regular basis. The Bible calls it repentance. Yes, even Christians must frequently repent, as exemplified in Revelation 2-3 where Jesus lovingly, but firmly rebukes the churches for various failures.
During an unofficial bull session with a young guy I met some time ago, we discussed the concept of repentance. “If I were you, I wouldn’t use that word in any sermon,” he said to me.
“Because Millennials don’t like it. It sounds judgmental. Even my Christian friends don’t like it.”
It took a minute for me to regroup. Somehow over time, we’ve stopped being the great company of the redeemed, and started splintering into sub-groups—builders, boomers, x’ers, millennials, etc., each with an approved vocabulary, and perhaps each with its own canon.
But this problem aside, it was more likely my young friend had heard “repent” abused and turned into a projectile, a Christian curse word, of sorts. Even if he had heard it used properly, who knows—like all the rest of the sinners on the planet, maybe there was something in his life he really didn’t want to turn from, and that alone was triggering his visceral dislike. The nicest preacher in the world can say “repent,” uttered in the gentlest tone possible, while offering a dozen red roses, no less, and still irk a sinner.
Never was a word more disliked while being connected to something so good.
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,
Maybe if we kept the “repent-turn-refreshing-presence-of-the Lord” all packaged together, we wouldn’t cringe whenever we heard, “repent.”
Repentance is good for us. Think about it. Any orientation away from Christ saps energy. It takes a lot to hide and hold onto things we shouldn’t be involved in. While we permit various strains of ungodliness to crawl the secret corridors of our hearts, we expend Olympic efforts in denial, argument, diversion, dismissal, twisting, and avoidance. That’s before it becomes public, and we find ourselves feuding with others over it—when the exertion level kicks into a higher gear, and we’re thrashing opponents, and trotting out verse fragments like, “Judge not.”
When you finally get tired of fighting yourself and others, label your “thing” for what it truly is—sin, self, flesh, or the world.
In the promising sunrise of a new year, turn back to Jesus.
The repentant heart travels headlong into such restorative refreshment, that literally anything is possible (see Isaiah chapter 35).
“Repent”—such a “bad” word loaded with such promising cargo. We should try it more often.