over this past year, i have heard the word "repent" more times then i had in all my years past as a follower of jesus. but they do not mean "repent and follow God." what they mean is, "repent, you are not doing things the way i[we] think it should be done, so you need to change and do it my[our] way." they seem to have of less a desire to help you to follow God and more of a desire to have you follow them. but this experience is not all negative. in fact i have found it to be a very positive and productive experience. you see, it has lead me to think what does the word "repent" means? sure, i have always heard it means "turn around" but i wanted to know more; what was the greek? what was the history of the word? could it have other meanings we seem to be overlooking? could it mean something different? could it be more than just "repent"? could it mean something we lost as a community? so, i got to thinking [danger will robinson] and set my mind to think, ponder and read greek [always fun] to get to the idea of what i believe "repent" means. so, to see the word "repent" in light of what it means today, what it meant in latin and more, what did it mean to a first century mind.
the word "repent" is a "middle english" word that comes from the latin word "paenitere" which gives birth to the middle english word [taken from old french "repentir,"] "repent" and means "to be sorry." the core of the word deals with feeling regret and sorrow. so, in an "english" idea "repent, the kingdom of God is at hand" means, "feel sorry for who you are, because the kingdom of God is at hand." but is that what the greek shares? is that an understanding in the greek?
think of it this way, one of the greek words for "repent" is "metanoes" [the other is "metamellomai" and has about the same meaning and root structure] and is actually a compound word made up of "meta" meaning "companions, together, towards, accompanied, accompany" and "noeo" meaning, "consider, think, understand, see, perceive." so, one can say that the idea of "repent" [metanoes] means to "turn around and consider walking with others who will help you see the kingdom of God all around you," right?
in luke's recording of the life and ministry of jesus [13:1-9] jesus shares with us a great story of what it means to "repent." in that, jesus shares that if we do not "repent" we will parish, cool - but again, what does jesus mean? so, because jesus knows the idea of "repent" is a hard one to grasp, jesus shares a great story:
"Then he told this story: "A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren't any. He said to his gardener, "What's going on here? For three years now I've come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?'
"The gardener said, "Let's give it another year. I'll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn't, then chop it down.'"
the land owner mindset:
i remember when i first became a follower of jesus, i heard a radio preacher speaking about this story and saying that the "land owner" was God and that the "gardener" was jesus. but the more i think about it, the less i think that is the case.
the owner of the land say, 'cut it down; get rid of it; it is not producing; i'm tired of it and it is just wasting ground.' to me, that does not sound much like God, but it does sound like legalistic christians who think they know all the answers and have created a set of "rules and guidelines" to live by based on what they think is "righteous."
i am amazed at the number of us [followers of jesus] who have the same reaction about other people. many say, "repent" and if nothing happens we act as if the person is just wasting ground, not give us the fruit we desire. so in our hearts and minds we thing "cut them down." sure, many say "we do this because we love them" but a quick judgment because of a lack of fruit is not the compassion christ shares with us and we must have for others. too many see a tree, they expect fruit and if they do not get what they desire they want to cut the tree down.
the gardener’s mindset:
after the land owner gets his panties in a twist over the lack of fruit, the gardener says, "wait, i can help this tree produce fruit. i will spend time with it, seeing to what it needs and helping it get all it needs to grow and produce fruit. give me time, it will take extra time, but i am willing to give of my life, my time, to see this tree reach the potential it has stored in its branches." that is the idea jesus puts out there as a idea of "repenting;" that's were we need to be as a people, as followers of jesus. we need to be a gardener willing to take the time needed to make sure the plant is growing and producing. we need to be willing to get dirty, get involved and get creative in the process. the gardener desires strongly to see the plant produce, and is willing to go that extra mile for the plant; are we for people?
we need to go that extra mile for others; to work together and build community; build relationships; build a foundation for the future. some we see as "not being fruitful" not "following jesus" but it takes action on our part; we need to be ready to get down and get dirty. we need to see what others need and help them develop a solid foundation in christ. what i have found over the past is that when we truly invest our lives into the lives of others, fruit does come - and it is sweet, wonderful and seed producing. you see, we need to remember that "fruit" is the way a plant sends out seeds and we have a choice, "land owner seeds" or "gardener seeds."
the way i see "repent."
i do not see "repent" as this nasty idea, or scary tactic many seem to use. many strive to make it, an idea of "either turn now or burn in hell." one of the people who told me to repent said, "jesus says, 'repent and be saved'" when i reminded him that jesus never said those words and he was misquoting scripture, he added, "well, he may not have said it, but that is what he meant." [ok, here is a note of sarcasm] i always find great comfort in hearing people tell me they knew what jesus meant, even when jesus did not say anything about it.
when i read jesus saying, "repent, the kingdom of God is at hand" [as in matthew's recording of events in 4:17] or "repent, and believe the good news" [as in mark's recording of events in 1:15] i get a whole different read from it. what i read, what i come to understand, is jesus saying;
'understand, you need to change your direction, your perception of the world around you, and be in community with others developing relationships; it is in that "company of others," where you work together heading towards the kingdom of God!'
that is what i think jesus meant, a new idea for "repent?"