Jesus said, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ (Mk. 1:15)
At the end of each session at the jail I always ask the inmates what subject they would like to talk about for the coming week. On one occasion they decided to talk about repentance.
After reading through several scriptures the next week, including the one above, I asked how they needed to repent. One needed to repent from using drugs and alcohol. Another from how he had made money. Another from neglecting his family. Another from his “anger issues.” Another from trying to handle his PTSD without help.
One guy shifted the focus: “The jail system needs to repent—it’s not right that we’re locked up like animals with nothing to do.” Someone else said, “Lady Justice needs to repent because she ain’t blind like she’s supposed to be.” Someone else said, “This whole country needs to repent—there’s too much prejudice and injustice.”
Then one of the cell-leaders said, “Y’all quit your yapping and yammering. Forget about the country. Forget about the system. We can’t fix all that from in here. We did something to end up here. When are we going to stop our ‘stinkin-thinkin’ and ‘stupid-actin’? When are we going to get tired of wearing orange? How do we need to change so that we don’t come here again? That’s what repentance means.”
It was a Kingdom of God moment. A moment when God’s truth was spoken. A moment that reminded me that I wasn’t only there to teach and lead them; I was also there to repent with them. Repentance is an all-inclusive word. No exceptions. No exemptions.
I loved it when the inmate asked, “When are we going to get tired of wearing orange?” because he could be addressing all of us. When are we going to get tired of doing the same old things that continue to get us into trouble? And, how do our hearts, minds, and souls need to turn around and change so that we don’t end up with the same bad results?
Even though it may sound like bad news that we need to repent, I would encourage us to think instead about the good news that we can.
- How do you need to repent? Turn around? Change? When are you going to begin doing so?
- If you are tired of doing the same old things that continue to get you into trouble, what new things, new actions, or new behaviors do you need to take on so that you don’t?
- When we repent, Jesus rejoices. When you repent, how do you think Jesus looks at you, and what do you believe He says?