Jesus begins his ministry with this message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” What does Jesus mean by commanding us to repent. The Greek word metanoeo means to change our perception or our understanding, that is to have a different mind. This is not a simple “I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.” This is an eye-opening, mind blowing experience that the reality of the world around me is different from what I previously understood. Repentance is to understand and perceive through the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven instead of the ways of the world.
Repentance in this way is not a one and done point in time or a single decision, it is a daily discipline of seeing our current circumstances through Kingdom eyes rather than our earthly senses, it is to reference everything to God rather than to ourselves. The journey of the disciple is the journey of repentance.
One of the ways that we walk this journey is to simply take the time to notice where we place our attention, where do we turn our senses for understanding. I like Albert Haase’s analogy to teaching a child to cross the street. We teach our children as they come to a street to stop, look, listen, and go. We can apply the same process to our spiritual walk. At intentional times during the day and at times when we begin to feel anxious, uncertain, or angry, we can stop, look, listen, and go.
First, we stop. We take a deep, prayerful breath, still our bodies, and quiet our minds. Then, we look for the presence of God. Instead of seeking to perceive and understand from the vantage point of self, we seek to see where the ever-present Spirit is moving, where the Kingdom of Heaven is being made manifest in our midst. Next, we listen for the voice of God revealing to us the will of God. Finally, we go and do what God has invited us to do as we participate in the work of the Kingdom.
In this way repentance becomes not a mournful or sorrowful burden but a beautiful invitation filled with anticipation. Repentance becomes a joy filled turning from darkness to light and from death to life. The Kingdom of Heaven is indeed in our midst may we all turn our perception and understanding to this present glory.