Repentance involves a metanoia…

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3)

“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.  Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” (Jonah 3: 3-5)

“Who knows? God may turn and relent; He may turn from His fierce anger, so that we will not perish.” When God saw their actions— that they had turned from their evil ways— He relented from the disaster He had threatened to bring upon them.” (Jonah 3:10)

Behold me at Thy feet, O Jesus of Nazareth, behold the most wretched of creatures, who comes into Thy presence humbled and penitent! Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy! I have sinned and my sins are always before Thee. Yet my soul belongs to Thee, for Thou hast created it, and redeemed it with Thy Precious Blood. Ah, grant that Thy redeeming work be not in vain! Have pity on me; give me tears of true repentance; pardon me for I am Thy child; pardon me as Thou didst pardon the penitent thief; look upon me from Thy throne in heaven and give me Thy blessing. Amen. Ora Pro Nobis.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 13:1-5
The Fall of the Tower of Siloam, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

All catastrophes, small or great including the ones we are undergoing, with the crises happening around the world and in our country, one on top of another, are catalysts, even oxgoads, for changing our mind.  Jonah changed his mind under some extreme prompting – just as we are enduring now.  It’s painful and scary to be stuck inside a fearsome creature. But his repentance leads to an entire country repenting and being forgiven and saved from perishing! 

As C.S. Lewis points out: pain is a great motivator and one that God is not hesitant in using if it means it saves our everlasting life and the lives of others.  “Pain”, he observes, “insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” At some point, all of us have something extreme happen to help us repent

Lent involves repentance and repentance involves changing our mind. That’s what the Greek word metanoia means– a changed (meta) mind (noia).  And of course, we change our mind, we have to change our actions and the state in which we were acting before. We have to stop doing what is wrong, leave it, and start doing what is right. All of us have something that we have to change, to stop, to give back, to make amends for and start obeying God. None of us sins in a vacuum. What we do wrong affects ourselves and others. It even causes problems in our country. It certainly offends God.

Chesterton was no exception when it came to repentance. “Chesterton changed his mind. He admitted he was a fool and a joke. He had professed all the latest ideas. But the one thing he was sure was most wrong, ended up being right ” – Kevin De Young.  This is how Chesterton’s great work, “Orthodoxy” begins: with a repentance, a change of his mind.

“For if this book is a joke it is a joke against me. I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before…No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne.  I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it. I did strain my voice with a painfully juvenile exaggeration in uttering my truths. And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine.  When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom…The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.” – G. K. Chesterton, Introduction, Orthodoxy, 1908

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