If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard the word “repent” so many times that you never really thought to look too deeply at what it means. You know what it means. To regret. To regret your actions so deeply, that you change your actions in the future.

This is, in fact, the tried-and-true meaning of our English word. Regret and repent are so closely tied, in fact, that you’ll find verses in the King James Version that tell us that God “repented his decision” and relented.

But…wait. How can God repent? Doesn’t it imply sin? Doing something wrong? Why would the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever change His perfect mind so fully as to also change His actions? That doesn’t quite jive, does it?

If you look at the history of our English word, you’ll trace its roots back to a Latin root that carries the same meaning.

But that Latin word isn’t what was used in the original New Testament when John the Baptist and Jesus called all men to “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” No, the word used in Greek is metanoia, and it doesn’t mean quite the same thing as our Latinate word. It’s literally meta, which means “beyond,” and nous, which means “mind or spirit.”

Look at that for a moment. This word that was chosen to represent what Jesus called us all to do was literally “to go beyond the mind you have now.” It doesn’t just mean to be sorry or to change your actions. It calls us to change our minds. To change our spirits. To look at the world in a new way. To see everything from the people around us to our problems to our health issues to our relationships through new eyes, a new mind.

Christianity is not just about recognizing sin. Christianity is not just about being sorry for where we fall short. Christianity is about learning to view our lives and the world through God’s eyes. That will involve putting aside the things that displease Him, yes. But it will also involve seeking, in every moment of every day, to grow closer and closer to Him. To crawl up into His lap as His child. To learn how to be the people He wants us to be, who this “new man” is that Christ has created with His sacrifice.

By nature, we are all selfish–it’s how we survive. We see things from our own perspective, in terms of how it benefits or impacts us. We see things through the lens of our emotions, our biases…and our fears. Those things shape not only our wants and don’t-wants, they shape our interactions, our judgments, our words, and our actions. So when Jesus calls us to a new way, a way beyond the mind we have now, by nature, that involves moving beyond those perspectives, too. It involves loving those you disagree with. It involves praying for those who try their best to make your life miserable…and those who just don’t stop to think about you at all. It involves showing respect to people who really don’t deserve it. It involves choosing radical peace instead of fight or flight. It involves not complaining, but rather looking for God’s opportunities in every situation.

It involves loving like Christ loves. It involves being humble and gentle and controlled. It involves being willing to sacrifice what the world says matters for what HE says matters.

Because He already did. He gave up His home in heaven to come and heal the broken relationship between man and God. He gave us His life in order to restore ours and make us fit for heaven. And He offers us these new eyes to see. These new spirits to perceive. These new minds to think about things in new ways. And this, my friends, is not a one-time challenge we accept.

This is a process we have to live our whole lives. We all know we’re never “there,” right? Life is a journey, not a stop along the road. Each step we take, each mile we cover, we’ll meet new challenges and encounter new problems and stumble in new potholes. Of course, we will. There will be pain and anger and betrayal. Of course, there will. There will be days when we cannot see the road through the storm, through the fog, through the darkness. Of course, there will.

But that’s where this call, this promise, this Way of Christ is so beautiful–that’s when we get to cry out to God and ask Him to help us see beyond this mind, beyond this spirit, beyond this way of thinking or feeling that has us trapped.

And that, I think, is what really makes us free. Not gaining independence from forces in the world, not even only being set free from our sins–but being free, too, from the chains of our own minds and eyes and perceptions. Free of us…and free to be His. Free to live as He lives. To love as He loves.

And that, my friends…that really does change everything.

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