“Repent and believe the good news,” Jesus is reported to have said at the beginning of his ministry (Mark 1:15). Unfortunately for many, this has come to mean something like, “Show that you are sorry for your sinfulness and believe that you are saved.” I say it is unfortunate, because people infer that if one does’t apologise and ask for mercy, and/or one doesn’t believe what one is supposed to believe about Jesus, then there will be some sort of negative judgment against one.
The Greek word in the New Testament translated as repentance is metanoia, which literally means ‘afterthought’, and is used in the Bible to represent, not just a change of mind, but a fundamental and complete change of direction; a change of heart.
After repentance, one lives differently, one’s values are radically changed, and in the theological sense, one lives in the Realm of God. It is not about merely regretting mistakes or ‘sinfulness’, and it is not a seeking of forgiveness; it is a matter of turning around and reorienting oneself in order to receive the gift of life, in the here and now, held out to those who follow the way of Jesus.
The message is not ‘Repent or be punished’; it is ‘Repent so you don’t miss out.”