What does it mean to repent?

Some thoughts from Luke 15:1-10 – about what it means to be lost and to repent ….

Let’s start at the end of the story and work backward. – This has nothing to do with heaven and hell. It’s about this world, this life – and how we live here and now. To “repent” is to experience a change of mind, perhaps of heart, to gain a sense of new purpose and new direction in life. – If we are lost, we have lost our direction. If we feel “lost” in life, we are not sure why we are here and what we are to do. We need a new clarity of mind and a new deepening of purpose and meaning in our hearts. – That’s what it means to repent – it means to be found.

“Sinners” was a pejorative term used by the self-righteous to describe people they judged as unacceptable because of who they were or how they lived. “Those people” did not follow the rules and regulations set for them, and so they were not welcome in the community of “the righteous.” They did not belong. That community could not accept them or care for them. It was not a community of warmth, compassion, and love.

Jesus came to “find the lost,” to seek out people who needed a change of mind and heart, of purpose and direction – whether they knew it or not. And his love and warmth and acceptance and hospitable spirit – his welcome of “those people” – was resented by people who could not feel that way and could not understand why Jesus did.

Most people are not looking for a church with rules and regulations to follow in order to belong. Most people may not even know they are looking or searching for anything. But when they are “found” – when people encounter real love, welcome, acceptance, authenticity, hospitality, caring – they often have a change of mind and heart and find a new purpose and direction in life.

Perhaps our “searching for the lost” is simply to offer welcome, acceptance, caring, love no matter what – and celebrate when people gather to experience with us the warmth of God’s love.

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