Repent? What Does That Mean?

The police in New Hampshire are resorting to strange tactics to catch people using their cell phones while driving. The use of cell phones when driving is dangerous and illegal in many places. In fact, some studies indicate that using your phone while driving can be more dangerous than driving drunk. Everyone agrees that texting while driving is the most dangerous of all.
Recently, the New Hampshire police placed uncover cops at various intersections to watch for people using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. Michelle Tetreault got a ticket because, while waiting at a stop light, her daughter asked for the phone in order to take a picture.
Now here’s the interesting part for me. The undercover cop was standing at the intersection with a sign around his neck. He was dressed as a doomsday prophet and his message read, “Repent, for the end is near.” You have to give high marks to the police for creative disguises. The 14-year-old daughter wanted a picture because she didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘repent’.
Given our impression at times that America is a Christian country, how is it possible that a 14-year-old doesn’t know the word ‘repent’? It’s not part of our vocabulary anymore either inside or outside the church. We don’t like the word; we don’t like the idea. Many people find it to be a negative term stirring up ideas of an angry God.
It’s unfortunate that we have lost the meaning of that rich word. In Greek, it simply means ‘to turn around.’ In the New Testament, it came to mean a change of heart and direction. It also picked up the idea of regret or remorse for one’s sins. So the idea of repenting is about changing one’s heart, having remorse over sin and turning to God. It’s not something we should fear but rather willingly embrace.
It was John the Baptist who preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) Notice he didn’t say “the end is near.” For those who repent, it’s the beginning. It’s the start of something new: entering the Kingdom. It’s God’s call for people to come and join with him in his Kingdom. Repentance is part of the gospel – the good news. Let’s make sure people know that.

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