This week my memory verse has one of the most unpopular religious words, that is almost guaranteed to make people feel uncomfortable.
‘Repent’. It is not a happy word. Repent means to stop doing things in our own wrong way and to start doing things in God’s right way.
You can instantly see why it is an uncomfortable directive. To start with most of us don’t like to think we are doing things wrong. Then there is the trouble with knowing who gets to decide which ways are right and which ways are wrong anyway! And even if you could concede that maybe a good God might have better ways than our own, we still could feel uncomfortable making the change, because change is hard!
And on top of all that there is the image on a religious shouter person yelling at shoppers in the high street to repent or suffer in several horrible ways! Not helpful.
But as I think about this verse I see that Jesus is telling people to repent because the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. The implication seems to be that if we repent we may enter into this Kingdom of Heaven. And when I think about heaven, then repenting makes more sense to me.
Imagine what heaven should be like. It should be a good place right? Where people are good to one another, where there is kindness and honesty. Where people don’t hurt one another. Where people are safe and joyful.
Now if heaven was like that and I went there just as I am now, would heaven still be as wonderful? Because, although I am not evil, I do lie from time to time, I do hurt people’s feelings without a good cause. I am sometimes selfish, I am sometimes angry. I don’t always make the world a better place. Sometimes I am a right pain!
So, if I want to be part of a heavenly kingdom and I want that kingdom to stay heavenly then I have to change, don’t I? I have to be kind, and truthful, and generous. I have to be a person that makes people feel safe and happy.
When I think about it like that then ‘repent’ doesn’t seem to be such an offensive word…although it still remains a challenging one!