WEEK ONE: REPENTANCE
Matthew 4:17 (NRSV)
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Jesus had just spent forty days in the wilderness resisting temptation. He begins his ministry in earnest as he proclaims the kingdom of heaven has come near, instructs everyone to repent, and calls his new disciples to follow him. Repent is our word for today.
The word, “repent” means to regret or be sorry. But “repent” also means to turn away from, and more importantly, to turn to something else instead.
Lent is a time when we often “give up” certain behaviors as an act of repentance and reflection. We are helped by avoiding the situations that enable these behaviors. If we want to deny ourselves any sweets for Lent, we “turn away from them” by not buying them or having them in our homes. If we hope to tame our greed, we avoid shopping places or hide our credit cards. By eliminating or avoiding the temptations, we are more likely to succeed.
Jesus gave us his two greatest commandments: we are to love God and love one another. When he tells us to repent of our sinful ways, we recognize that our deepest, most hurtful sins are those we make in our broken relationships. But our efforts to repent of these sins are more difficult than giving up such habits as eating treats or spending money. As much as we long to obey Jesus’ words, we can’t simply “turn away” from people or avoid them! “This year, I’m giving up people for Lent.” We would be missing the whole point!
So Jesus shows us a new way to repent. In the wilderness, Jesus turns to recognize and face his temptations directly, and turns from them by turning to Scripture. When Jesus tells us to repent, he includes, “for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” He is assuring us that we have help- we have HIM, here with us!
We can’t turn FROM people, but now we have someone we can turn TO. Someone we can witness and follow. As we look to Jesus as our example and guide, we can learn how to love one another more perfectly. As we turn to Jesus for help, his Spirit will give us all we need to love God and others wholeheartedly. This Lent as we seek to repent of our sins, we can first turn to face and recognize how we are mistreating one another- and then turn to Jesus for forgiveness, wisdom, obedience and love. Lent becomes a time of repentance- as well as a time to live together, learn together, and more perfectly love together.
What sin hinders you most from loving God and loving your neighbor?
Do you recognize any certain behaviors from which Jesus may be asking you to repent?
What helpful words or actions of Jesus might you turn to and follow as you repent today?
We are sorry for our broken, imperfect nature. Help us to repent of anything that keeps us from pleasing you. Be our example and guide especially for our relationships today! Help us to face our sinful ways and then turn from them, as we turn to you instead. Amen.