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Metanoia is a Greek word from which we often get the English translation, “repent” or “repentance.” Meta actually means after, beyond, a change, like a metamorphosis. Metanoia means a “change of mind” or beyond your mind.

I’m a bit annoyed with our Latin fathers because they began to refocus on shame, guilt, regret, and sorrow. Acts of penance. So to “repent” today has come to mean to admit wrong doing and make amends.  To say you’re sorry. We’ve strayed a long way from the original biblical idea of, “beyond your mind.” It is to change your mindset in a supernatural way.

First off, regret, guilt, and being sorry are all valid things that can serve a vital purpose here. If you run over your neighbors cat, it would be good to feel regret, say you’re sorry and make amends. I don’t wish to completely dismiss the value of that in the world, it is just that this mis-translation of “repentance” as something exclusively about shame and penance has done a great deal of harm in the world.

I tend to say sorry a lot, especially to hubby, and often he does the same. Sorry the traffic so awful, sorry you have a headache, sorry you’re working so hard, sorry that tragedy in the world happened.  I can even have some regret, sorrow, and occasional guilt, but that “I’m sorry,” those are just words of comfort and affection,compassion. I am not actually repenting for anything. I’m not responsible for any of those things, they aren’t things I can change.  The “sorry” is genuine enough, it just isn’t repentance at all.

Anybody ever dealt with an alcoholic? They repent a lot and swear never to drink again. Or in the case of abuse, I’m sorry, and perhaps people genuinely are….but only until the next time. Neither one of these people can ever get “beyond the mind,” no matter how much penance they do. In fact, shame and penance will probably just fuel the next episode.

Because of this perception of repentance as having something to do with admitting wrong doing, taking the blame, and doing penance for your crimes, victims and those who have suffered things through no fault of their own, can have a hard time with repentance. Repentance means to change your mind, and perhaps change your heart too, your perceptions, your attitude, how you see the world. It is to go beyond your mind. Sometimes repentance is to admit wrong doing, but most of the time it is actually to take you beyond the mind, to free you of captivity, to release you from bondage, to change and transform you.

Romans 12:2 tells us, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

We should repent often and early, yes even those who have engaged in no wrong doing. Perhaps them even more so, because healing, redemption, repairing what has been stolen, lives right on the other side of repentance. To repent is to go beyond your mind, to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You let go of the old and put on the new man.

Repentance is an ongoing process, a never-ending one I hope, because it is the renewing of your mind, it is to be washed and cleansed of whatever muck the world has thrown at you, and it is to be transformed, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.