In the wake of Jeremiah’s ministry and the sad downfall of the southern kingdom of Judah; Ezekiel calls out to the exiled Israelite community that they should, “repent and live”! His prophetic appeal is that they can still turn from their evil ways and choose the right path of God’s promises.
This is of course and good thing, and part of what it means to repent. The emphasis place on repentance in western Christian communities is usually around this theme: Turn from your worldly ways. However, there is another part to repentance that is at least overlooked and at most, under-appreciated. Israel is challenged to repent in tumultuous times, ultimately because of poor behavior and sinful attitudes of the heart. However, repentance also has a role to play in the good parts of our lives; the joyous and victorious parts as well as the bad.
The greek word for repent literally means to change one’s mind. Change your mind. See things differently; but not just differently, see things the way God sees them. Allow your thinking to be transformed in a manner that is so profound that your are literally changed on the inside so that the outside follows. As Paul so eloquently states it in Romans, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In this light it isn’t so hard to see why this leads us to the confirmation of God’s will.
A new job. A new church plant. That well deserved vacation. The wedding of a loved one. Christmas. Even a simple weekend BBQ. These are just some examples of the good moments that life may offer us. It does seem unusual to suggest that we might repent in these times. Or does it?
When life throws us a curve ball or when we’ve done something stupid, the drama itself is enough to send us reeling and seeking God’s face. Yet when things are going well; when we’ve experienced any one example of life’s favorable moments, we tend to go on autopilot. This could prove to be the missing link in our personal journey of sanctification. What if, when we went through good times, we continued to ask God how it was that he wanted to change our minds and lives?
It may be yet another peril of our consumer culture that we assume our joys have no grander purpose than our consumption. While we can safely conclude that God does in fact want us to enjoy these moments, it is even safer to conclude that he is always at work. If he speaks in our pain, why wouldn’t he also speak in our victories? The life that constantly seeks God is one which constantly takes the position of learner (aka disciple). To humble ourselves in all seasons of life is to delve that much deeper into the fullness that God has promised us.
We’ll always emphasize the need to repent of/from the bad; but it may be time to also explore what it means to repent in/during the good!