Today is the central day of “The Return” – a movement for national repentance led by Rabbi Jonathan Kahn – held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Along with other churches, the church I attend will be joining with the march virtually and I am looking forward to it.
What is repentance? I have heard it explained as a “180 degree turn” in one’s life. “I was once going south and now I am going north” – a radical directional change in one’s life. I maintain that this is what resultsfrom repentance – but repentance is more than just a change in direction. Repentance comes from a change in our hearts.
In the New Testament the word “repent” is first heard from the mouth of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1,2). It is also the first word we hear Jesus speak in His public ministry (Matthew 4:17)! The Greek word for “repent” is metanoeo which is defined in Vine’s Expository Dictionary as to “change one’s mind or purpose.” I have heard it described as a change in one’s moral center – a change from my morals centering around what best pleases me, to my morals centering around what best pleases Him. This change leads to another change – in my disposition, or my state of mind, toward different areas of my life. The way I look at myself, others, sin, my “rights,” my relationships, and the needs of others, are all changed when I repent. All of this brings about that “180 degree turn” in the way we live.
How do we know if we have repented, or need to repent? That is why the next words we hear from Jesus in the New Testament are the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). These describe the man or woman who has truly repented. They are the picture of a repentant heart.
I like to describe them as the horizon by which we need to orient our lives. I am not a pilot, but have always been interested in aviation. Before computers were able to consolidate all the information a pilot needs to know into a few screens, a key indicator of how a flight was going was the “attitude indicator.” This is a circular dial that had a line (representing the wings of the airplane) that seemed to “float” above a stationary line (representing the horizon). If the floating line dropped below the stationary line – you were in a dive. If it rose above the horizon, you were in a climb. If the floating line leaned to the right or left – it showed that the plane was turning. The whole purpose of the attitude indicator was to show the plane’s disposition to the horizon. This is especially important during times when the real horizon could not be seen.
The Beatitudes are our “attitude indicator.” They provide a “horizon” for our lives and help us gauge our disposition to that horizon. Are we in a slow dive, or are we in too steep of a climb and heading for a stall? Are we beginning to roll? We should be visiting the Beatitutdes often to keep ourselves level and right-side-up in an upside-down world.