The problem, Leonard, is that you are a genius. Everyone should be asking themselves the same thing.
(Holding a sign on the street that says "repent!")
Are you scared yet? That's what saying the word "repent" really loud and with a whole bunch of exclamation marks will do to a person.
For most of us, repent has always meant what we know it means. It means to ask for forgiveness. It means to say sorry, on your knees, with tears in your eyes. The words plead and beg come to mind.
The only problem with that is that, when we talk about all those times in the Bible where people tell other people to repent, it doesn't mean anything close to what we think it means.
Okay, maybe I am stepping over the line a bit. I am not a theologian, nor do I claim to be. I am just a normal person. But I bet most of you are just normal people too, right?
So I'll say that there probably are a lot of times in the Bible where repent means to turn away from sin and to ask for forgiveness. In fact, I can think of a time when God was telling people to repent and stop worshipping idols. There. I said it. I am not going to try to redefine the word for you.
I am going to add a little bit and say that it means so much more than what we think it means.
So here I go.
In the new Testament, repent is translated from a Greek word that reads "Metanoeo" which means "to change your mind, or change your way of thinking."
To me, that definition is plenty different than the ask for forgiveness definition. Different enough to wonder why I'd never heard it that way before.
What does this mean? I've got my theories. Could it mean that we need to change our way of thinking about life? About God?
At Christmas time I am reminded to "fear not". That's a great example of changing my way of thinking.
The Shepherds were terrified when the Angel came to them to tell them Good News. The Angel told them not to be afraid. Those Shepherds needed to change their way of thinking about God. They did not need to be afraid of God.
It seems that Jesus was always trying to correct our ideas about Religion. A religious scholar would come in and question him and Jesus would respond in some new and radical way.
Jesus was all about changing our way of thinking. Repent!
The big lesson here is that I am pretty ignorant about what the Bible actually says and means a lot of the time. I should take it more seriously. It's an ancient group of books and letters written to people that lived way the heck on the other side of the world a bazgillion years ago. And we print off bibles for kids.
"Here, kid. Take this ancient text and apply it to your life. Inside it says don't steal and listen to your mom and dad. Oh and there are two sheep and two elephants on the Ark along with a bunch of other furry friends."
What this realization does to me is it automatically makes me humbler.
I don't know it all. I have to believe that the greatest Christian theologians don't know it all either. The scribes and scholars of Jesus' day didn't know anything about love; which, I believe, is the main theme of the whole collection of works. How could they miss it? Turns out they needed some repentance.
So if I don't know it all and my pastor doesn't know it all and if Mr. Famous Preacher doesn't know it all either, then the truth is that we should stop saying to everyone that we know it all.
I've lived with the Bible for 32 years. I am 32 years old. I have been to Sunday school and missionary school and mission trips, and a pastors son my whole life. And yet, I have a minimal amount of knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
Of course, I should find ways to learn more about how to study it. But the main lesson for me, and for probably most other Christians is to stop being such know it alls. And the truth is that being called "a know it all" is probably a nice way of putting it.
For Leonard, the future isn't pretty. In order to help bring God's kingdom on Earth. In order to proclaim a Christmas time of Peace we need to change our way of thinking.
I close with this verse. It's from Micah. May it encourage us to attempt to do our best to do exactly what it says.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.