Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
(Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)
Christians occasionally find themselves teased with the image of the street-corner preacher, clutching a huge brass-clasped Bible, whilst wearing a maniacal expression and proclaiming “repent for the end of the world is nigh!” I once saw a cartoon variation of this satire in the form of a man, wearing a huge sandwich board which proclaimed “The end of the world is nigh” on the front and “half-price meals at Joe’s Café” on the back.
The problem is with the word “repent.” It hangs like a mill-stone around the necks of so many as an exhortation to beat our breasts in sorrow for our past life, to seek God’s forgiveness and to turn to Christ.
Whilst there is a great deal of truth in that, especially where our consciences trouble us for genuine (as opposed to imagined) misdeeds, the definition is much too narrow. There is more, and better, to it.
The word “repent” is based on an ancient Greek word which means “to have a change of mind,” or to “think in a different way.” We might think of it as a change of heart, perhaps as a consequence of thinking more deeply or seeing the “bigger picture.”
When Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God, he is more concerned with saying that something new and wonderful is being inaugurated than he is in raking up the ashes of people’s earlier lives.
Jesus is challenging his hearers, including ourselves, to break out of conventional and long-assumed modes of living to see the world from the perspective of eternity: from God’s perspective.
The Kingdom is not a place for world-weary cynicism, or for exploitation of the status quo. Membership of The Kingdom is not limited to those who think they have attained a degree of holiness.
The Kingdom is the place for those with big and growing hearts, who open their minds to what God is doing in his world, and who want to join in.
That’s the Kingdom of God which Jesus came to proclaim.
show me the big picture
as far as I am able to see it.
Change my heart,
grow my mind
to understand the works of your Kingdom.