When the Bible talks about repentance, it may include confession, apology and changed actions, but it also means much more. Metanoia—the Greek word translated as “repentance” in the New Testament—literally means a change of mind, a transformation of perspective. To repent—as John the Baptist and Jesus meant it—is to change direction
Martin Luther wrote in the Augsburg Confession that repentance has “two sides, a putting to death and a raising to life,” which he also called “contrition and faith.” Luther argued fervently that it is not the quality of human contrition—our being “sorry enough”—that ensured God’s forgiveness; God gives grace freely. Yet Luther recognized that repentance leads us to turn to contrition and a new way of being, like the psalmist who cries, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
We can think of repentance, then, as a turnaround: a return to God and a change of heart. Simple—but not easy.
This message is adapted from “Turning to God, time after time” written by Meghan Johnston Aelabouni that first appeared in the September 2018 issue of Gather magazine.
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