Mark 1:15 (New Living Translation)
The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Several years ago on a beautiful Saturday morning, I walked onto a soccer field to deliver a devotional for a soccer ministry at the church I was serving. Right before their games started, a group of about thirty 4- and 5-year-olds sat down together on the grass. When you’re talking to a bunch of excited little kids, you’ve got about 10 seconds to get their attention. So as soon as I sat down with them, I asked, “Are any of you perfect?”
One boy enthusiastically raised his hand. “OOOO! I am! I am! I’m perfect!”
There’s always one in a crowd! 🙂 I was just about to segue into the next part of my devotional about how we all make mistakes, when I saw an itty-bitty boy reach out and gently put his tiny hand on his friend’s arm.
“No,” he said quietly and sweetly, “You know that’s not true. You know it’s not. No one is perfect. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
I was stunned! In case you’re not sure, that is a perfect quote from Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.
A clergy colleague told me years ago that if I would ever like to see a bunch of people squirm, just mention one word: “sin.” Now, I am definitely not into making people squirm, but if we look around at the world, if we pay attention to just about any interaction we have, if we are brave enough to look deep into ourselves, we’ll see the reality of our imperfection. So why do we so very much dislike considering what is broken in us?
Jesus didn’t come to earth because we’re all a bunch of perfect people who he thought it might be fun to hang around with for a while. I know that may sound a little snarky, but there was something far more important going on. Jesus came because we were desperately stuck, and needed something earth-shaking to break us out.
I think that’s why the very first words we hear from Jesus in the gospel of Mark are these from our reading today: “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
First two are declarative statements: the promised time has arrived, and the Kingdom of God is right around the corner. Jesus was announcing a new reality. The second two statements are prescriptive actions. Because of this new reality this is what we need to do: repent and believe.
In the New Testament, there are two main Greek words that we translate as “repentance”: metanoia and metamelomai. Metamelomai means to feel concern, regret, emotional remorse, to be sorry. Metanoia is to have a transformative change of heart; to change one’s mind and subsequently one’s actions.
In both metamelomai and metanoia, there is knowledge that something is not right, that something is not healthy, that something is out of line with God’s will for our lives. In metamelomai that knowledge is where it ends. Feeling bad that things aren’t the way they should be, or the way they could be, but resignation that “it’s just the way it is.”
Metamelomai is not enough. Knowledge is not enough. Understanding what is wrong, what is broken, what is damaged, is not enough. We have to be willing to change. God doesn’t want us to be stuck in our brokenness. God wants healing in our lives. Metanoia takes that knowledge, and moves it into action. Things aren’t the way they should be, or the way they could be, and that means: something needs to change. Metanoia. One of my favorite Greek words.
But in addition to “repent,” Jesus said “believe.” That word in Greek is pisteuo. It’s not just an intellectual belief. It’s confidence, faith. It is trust.
Trust in the fact that God loves you just as you are — with all your flaws and imperfections. You don’t need to earn God’s love. You’ve already got it!
But, at the very same time, also trust in the fact that God loves you too much to leave you just where you are.
God wants something even better for you…
What place in your life needs God’s healing?