Meaning of ‘repent’

The season of Lent is a time for soul-searching. Let me tell you a story. It happened at one of our state universities. Since the classes were large and impersonal the instructor made it a custom to begin each semester by having the students introduce themselves.

The girls sat up and paid special attention when one young man, whom some girls would describe as “a hunk,” stood up. He gave his name and the professor noted that many of the girls wrote it down. Next he told the name of the town where he lived. The girls wrote it down.

He gave other pieces of information, casually mentioning that he loved family life. The girls smiled brightly—he was just too good to be true. The young man continued, “I guess that is because of my mother. Mom was a very special woman. I hope some day to find somebody just like her.”

If the boy had sat down right then, he could have dated every girl in the freshman class. But, he didn’t sit down; he said one more thing, “I hope to find somebody just like my mother. She did a great job of raising 16 children.”

The girls stopped writing. In disappointment they crumpled up their notes and slowly dropped them on the floor. They liked what they saw in that young man, but he was asking them to make a change they weren’t ready to make.

That is how a great many people feel about Jesus, don’t you think? Most of the people I have seen admire him. After all, what’s not to like? He loved little children, picked them up in His arms and blessed them. He reached out to people who were hurting and helped those who needed healing.

Most of all, Jesus accepted people as they were. When the religious leaders of his day condemned him for associating with prostitutes and tax collectors, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do.” He said to a woman who was taken in adultery, “Go, and sin no more.”

It’s true. Jesus accepts us as we are. But he is never willing to leave us that way. Listen to the words of Mark: “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the gospel.”

During this season of Lent Jesus is saying to you and me, “Repent.” Repentance means turning around, going in another direction. It means a changed life, a different way of living and doing things. It means loving our enemies, praying for those who wrong us, forgiving those who hurt us and warning that if we do not forgive, then God cannot forgive us. Clyde Nichols is minister emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.

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2014-03-06 digital edition

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