What was Jesus talking about when he said, “Repent and believe”? According to Mark this was Jesus’ first sermon, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) So what does it mean to repent? Many of us have been taught, for the most part, that to repent is to say we are sorry to God. Repentance is presented to us as something we are to do in order to make ourselves in good standing with God. This was not the teaching of Jesus as he went about the countryside. To repent, according to the term that Mark used to quote Jesus, is to “re-think your life”. It is “re-evaluation that leads to action.” Jesus is inviting the people (and us today) to take an objective look at their lives. He is encouraging them to stop living their lives apart from the Kingdom of God, but instead to let that very Kingdom shape everything.
Repentance is not a negative experience, it is a positive one. When we repent our eyes are open to the life that God intends for us. My experience with repentance is two-fold. One, it happens each morning as I take time to pause and be with God. It’s a daily re-evaluation that causes me to go about my day differently than I would without God. Two, it happens when I get away. A few times throughout the year I get away for 12 to 72 hours to “rethink life”. This happens on a day away with some buddies, weekend with my wife, kayaking or camping trip with a friend, or a retreat.
Creating time and and space to re-think our lives is a practical way that we can lean into repentance and follow the invitation of Jesus to repent and believe.