Have you ever had a bad habit? Did you beat it? Have you ever gotten out of a terrible relationship? Have you ever started eating better? If you have, then you know that incredible feeling of making positive changes. But, it is not so much about being free, having better friends, or losing weight. That incredible feeling comes from taking charge, making a decision for your good, and, feeling better about yourself.You may not realize it, but every time you make one of those great choices, you are repenting. I know. It sounds a little bit odd, but I want to think about repentance differently for a minute. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “repent” and “repentance” this way,
repent: to be very sorry for something bad you have done in the past and wish that you had not done it.1
repentance: the fact of showing that you are very sorry for something bad you have done in the past, and wish that you had not done it.2
Does that feel familiar? It should. We usually associate repentance with negative feelings or situations. Pastors and teachers push us to see our error and “repent.” Christians live to avoid having to repent because repenting means they have erred. The strange fact is that the Bible does not support our negativity. There are three primary words translated as “repent.” Here are their original language definitions:
metanoeo (Greek): to change one’s mind.
shuwb: (Hebrew): to turn or return.
nacham: (Hebrew): to be sorry or to regret.
Only one of the three has any connotation of regret, and it is the least used of all. Nacham shows up 109 times in the Bible, but its positive counterpart, shuwb, shows up with no regret 1056 times. Metanaeo never had a negative twist. Yes, there are times when people repented because of great regret. Christians experience a godly grief when they realize that they messed up or missed out on God’s good directions. But godly grief is not about regret and negativity. It produces something positive. It builds an awareness of a better choice and the determination to choose something better for ourselves. Paul put it this way,
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves.2 Corinthians 7:10-11
Repenting is just a logical choice to change our minds or direction. And, it does not have to be associated with sinning. You can discover and turn to God’s incredible truths long before you sin! You can turn towards the abundant life that God planned for you.3
It is time to debunk the negative idea of repentance. We need to think about this differently. We need to unload a little bit of burden from ourselves. Repentance is just the first step in following God. We repent in each and every decision if we exchange the less for the greater and the good for the better. Repenting does not have to be a crisis thing. It can be a healthy thing that helps us avoid the crisis thing.
What decision will you make for your good today?