We have been gleaning insights from Christ’s admonition to the Ephesian church from these brief verse in Revelation 2. Of the three “action items” Christ outlined for the church in verse 4–remember, repent and “do the things you did at first”–we’ve looked at how important remembering is, and how it needs to be focused on what we have been saved to rather than what we have been saved from. Today we will look at the rather unpopular word “repent.”
Get your negativity out now: what do you think of when you think of the word “repent?” Sorrow, angst, altar calls, self-flagellation? Where sin is concerned, these are appropriate–confession, contrition and asking for forgiveness are all appropriate responses to sin. But do you think it’s appropriate when your sin is neglect of joy, good works, the fruit of the Spirit?
Do you find it easier to wallow in self-imposed guilt rather than to the “good things you did at first?”
We modern fundamentalist-raised Christians can have some knee-jerk reactions to the word “repent,” and some of that baggage isn’t helpful. “Repent” in the new testament can often be translated “to change one’s mind and purposes,” or even “to change one’s conduct or demeanor.”* Repentance isn’t about beating ourselves up. It’s about re-turning to whatever is good, lovely, right and true. It’s about re-turning to our first love, and allowing that love to reset what has become jaded or neglectful within us.
Paul illustrates this turning in his letter to the Ephesians:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:31-32
This is an either/or situation. Turn from bitterness, wrath, slander, malice…turn to kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness. Stronger language, same concept.
This admonition comes after a chapter full of contrasts between what we have been called to remember what we have been called away from. Paul reminds us that when we cannot forgive, cannot repent, getting back in touch with the greatness of who God is enables us to let go of our anger, clamor, slander. The glory of God enables us to repent.
This is why remembering comes first. Remembering the good and joyful life with Christ practically accomplishes the purposes of repentance in and of itself. Remember the abundant life of Christ and turn towards it.
Other blogposts in this series:
regaining your first love
remembering your first love
* Click here to read commentary on Revelation 2:5 and scroll down to Clarke’s Commentary