What is repentance, really?

Jesus cried out, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

A couple of years ago I posted on Facebook a question about the Greek word translated “repentance.” (It’s metanoia and its variants.) Yes, I admit, it took me a long time to get back to all the links and ideas people sent me, but here I am again, studying repentance.

It’s because three things happened at about the same time. First, I was praying for pastors and other Christian leaders (the ones who have treated and counseled sexual abuse victims as if they were pariahs) to repent about their wrongdoing. Second, I’ve been praying for revival for a long time, and in the context of that, having a discussion with a Christian leader about whether or not repentance is necessary for salvation. Third, I’ve been studying II Corinthians, where Paul talks about repentance in chapter 7.

I always used to hear repentance being taught as a change of mind. That very sterile, academic definition vaguely dissatisfied me. It seemed to accompany the academic, intellectual acceptance of Christ embodied in the “sinner’s prayer.” Continue reading