In mid-month, we will once again enter the most sacred season of the Christian year – Lent. This year, we will place special focus during the Sundays of Lent on the “parables” Jesus told, the often puzzling and strange stories meant to move people toward new spiritual understanding. And, of course, we will also journey to where all four Gospels eventually take us – to Jesus’ arrest and death at the hands of the Roman authorities.
But it is not just where the Gospels take us at the end that matters. What also matters is where they begin Jesus’ ministry. All four introduce us to Jesus’ work by first introducing us to John the Baptist and his call to “repent”.
That word – “repent” – has managed to acquire a rather negative connotation among many contemporary Christians, commonly perceived as connected to severe judgement and condemnation on God’s part. However, “repent” as it is used in the Bible simply means “to turn back”, or even more accurately, “to change one’s mind”, with “mind” being a widely encompassing term for things like “seeing”, “understanding”, “thinking”, “feeling” and “heart”. Repent then, rather than being associated with condemnation, is instead a call toward spiritual growth and away from the spiritual death which is the inevitable result of insisting on staying where we are in our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about God, others, and the world.
Given that, when was the last time you “changed your mind” about a perception, attitude or belief about God, another person, or an issue that you were previously certain of? My guess is that, while that was difficult if not painful, it allowed you to move forward as a person; brought spiritual growth instead of death.
This coming season of Lent then, I invite you to consider where and how God might be calling, whispering, nudging, or even pushing you to “repent” – to change your mind in some important way about something you currently believe or are doing in your life. And then, let God in, so God can lead you through that change of mind to a deeper, stronger you.