From the pulpit: Repentance is a change in nature

In the dictionary, the word repent is defined as &8220;feel sorry for having done wrong and seek forgiveness.&8221; This is a good, general working definition because this definition connects regret for wrong doing with an attempt to make amends.

All the regret in the world is of little value unless something is put in motion to repair the damage done.

So, the dictionary recognizes the critical establishment of seeking forgiveness as a part of repentance. Certainly, the writings and teaching of the prophets, apostles and Jesus that we find in Holy Scripture make this strong connection, as well.

When the early twentieth century writer, Lewis Wallace, wrote about repentance, he wrote: &8220;repentance must be something more than mere remorse for sins; it comprehends a change of nature befitting heaven.&8221; That last phrase Wallace used is particularly important to understanding the use of the word repent in the biblical text. Specifically, &8220;a change of nature&8221; is of interest.

In most cases, when we read the word repent in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word interpreted to render repent is shub. The literal translation of the Hebrew shub is &8220;to turn around.&8221; This indicates reversing one&8217;s course or changing one&8217;s way of life.

In the New Testament repent is usually rendered from one of two Greek words: epistrepho or metanoeo. The former pays particular attention to the idea of &8220;turn&8221; as described in the Old Testament.

The acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior is often described using this word and found most notably in the book of Acts. More often, in the New Testament, the latter of the two Greek words mentioned above is used. The idea behind this word is not so much a &8220;turn&8221; as it is a &8220;return&8221; to faithful obedience to the will of God.

Both the idea of &8220;turn&8221; and &8220;return&8221; are variable for us to understand as children of God. Repentance is an ongoing fact of life.

There are times when our actions and inactions should cause us alarm and through the conviction of God&8217;s Spirit bring us to an understanding that we need to &8220;turn around&8221; and find a new way. There are other times when a new way is not needed; rather we need to &8220;return&8221; toward the Way of Jesus again.

The knowledge of &8220;turn&8221; and &8220;return&8221; speak to the fact that all people, those belonging to the Way and those yet to accept the Way of Christ, need repentance.

Repentance leads to healthy relationships and healthy relationships to a thriving faith community. That&8217;s work in which all of us need to be involved.

Mark Davenport is pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Alabaster.