Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Repentance Always

When should we do repentance?

The concept of repentance comes from the Hebrew word teshuvah which means "to turn".

Sometimes people think of the Kingdom of Heaven like a box. People who are Yeshua's disciples are in the box; everyone else is outside the box. Maybe in this imagery God is in the middle of the box.

Scripture describes us differently. It draws a picture with God in the middle of the picture and people around him, all with an arrow to show which way they are moving. People move in all different directions. Some people are moving towards God; others are moving away from him. Our job is teshuvah: stopping, turning to face God, and taking the first step in the right direction.

Stopping can be hard. It is often habitual or enjoyable to be moving away from God. Turning can be hard. There are issues for which scripture does not offer clear guidance and we need a lot of prayer and study to learn which way to turn to face God. Taking the first step can be hard too. In Judges 4:14-15, Sisera's army is not confused until after Barak leads the charge against the militarily superior foe.

People moving toward God will notice the need to adjust their direction. If I aim myself at a distant tree and start walking straight, I'll eventually get close enough to the tree to notice that my original aim was slightly off. Similarly, as I get closer to God I notice additional ways I need to adjust my movement.

So repentance is not really about when we do something wrong, or when we notice our love for God has faded from what it once was. (Those are only the symptoms that we have been moving in the wrong direction.) Repentance is really about keeping our eyes on God, and being always on watch for needing to change our direction to face him better. It can be prompted by not noticing how God is trying to lead us, just as much as being about our moral failings.