Turn around. Change direction. Make a U-turn. These are all accurate renderings of the Greek word metanoia, which is translated “repent” in most Bibles. The word ‘repent’ is loaded with religious baggage, notions of gloom and doom, judgment and wrath, hellfire and brimstone. But the word literally means “change” (meta) of “mind” (noia). Why even bother with this nit-picky word study? The reason is that the notion of repentance has become so unpopular and offensive in our day.
Christians, however, cannot shy away from the notion of repentance. It is at the heart of both John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ kingdom announcement. It’s the very first word out of both of their mouths. We have to face the challenge head-on. What did Jesus mean when he came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15)? We might turn to a very unlikely source for an answer to this question.
One of the best-loved rock ballads of all time is Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Toward the end of the song we find the following line:
Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there is still time to change the road you’re on.
Jesus’ challenge, no doubt, has many levels of meaning and endless implications for one’s life. But at the most basic level Jesus is urging one and all to check their maps, examine the road they are currently heading down, and consider making a U-turn. Jesus’ message was not intended to offend, but rather to save lives. Like a highway flagman desperately waving his sign to prevent cars from driving into a deathtrap, Jesus warns others of the certain destruction that will come if they continue on their current path. His call for repentance is the same as the song—“There is still time to change the road you’re on.”
Is it time for you to humble yourself and make that U-turn? If so, simply pray this prayer with me:
Dear God, I am sorry for all the ways I have chosen my own road. I confess my stubbornness and ask for your forgiveness. This road is not leading me anywhere good and I want to turn around and start heading my life in a new direction. Help show me Your way. Amen.