Certain words used to be mentioned frequently, then went slightly out of fashion, then got a reboot before falling into some disarray and then going through the cycle again.
One of those words in my brief sojourn on the planet so far is the word repentance.
To remind/inform you, my context of upbringing was in a town in England in a church setting that made a great claim to take Bible teaching seriously. I won’t bother with church labels other than that definition. So back in the 80’s and early 90’s, the time of my upbringing, the importance of repentance was fairly pressing. It was pressing, but to be honest and it may be my ignorance – it wasn’t obvious what repentance really entailed. Unless it was the somewhat superficial expectation that some bad behaviour was made good.
When I left home and went to university, my Christian exposure expanded somewhat. In the conversations repentance was barely mentioned or explored other than to deride it because of its negative connotations in looking to make connections with unbelievers. It appeared somewhat unfashionable and vague and was attached to a tactic of getting people prepared for the boot camp of church where certain behaviours were monitored and considered unacceptable to true holiness. It was all rather regimented and said little about freedom and grace. (Oh and that last word – grace – that’s a journey in itself.)
That phase took up most of the late 90’s and early 00’s.
This year I celebrate ten years since one of the greatest years of my life – arguably the greatest. It’s marked as such because of what I class to be something of a spiritual Renaissance. This was particularly as a result of appraising the importance of Jesus in ALL things. (Yeah, I know, I should have got that memo from time, but it can take me a while to catch up.) My Christian influence and circles widened all the more and the issue of repentance came up again. On this occasion, though, my previous perceptions on the matter were challenged and this was particularly apparent in the new opportunity I had working for the YMCA in a capacity of opening and pursuing conversations on the Christian faith.
When I left Stoke-on-Trent initially in the crossover between 2009 and 2010, that opened a new series of considering all sorts where following Jesus was concerned. It became clear that the mercy of God was so evident in my life. I had bungled in one or two areas and my desire to live for Him lead me to do more than just utter phrases and have good intentions.
In moving back to Stoke-on-Trent relatively recently, there was the opportunity to address the basics in the church context. Among the issues that I began to consider like relationship, discipleship, mission, I eventually got round to repentance again.
What is repentance? No, really, what is it? What does it look like? What is it for?
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden