Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Lent, Day 18: John's Baptism was a Baptism of Repentance
When I was a graduate student I researched the Greek terms 'metanoia' and 'metanoeo,' usually translated "repentance" and "to repent," respectively. What I found surprised me and altered my earlier understanding of the concept. I had thought, because of how I heard the word used and came to use it myself, that repenting meant simply to stop doing what you are doing. Perhaps it also meant to feel bad about what you had been doing. What I found (and I can provide you a bibliography, if you want, which includes an interesting doctoral dissertation by a fellow ND alum)...er, anyway, what I found was that the word involves this turning from something bad but also involves a turning to something good. It is a turning to as much as a turning from. I used to think of John as coming to tell people simply to stop sinning when he told them to repent; he was, but he was also telling them to turn toward God, to do what God would have them do.
I suppose I should think of Lent the same way. It is not simply a fasting from but a turning toward. There is a humility and self-denial involved, but it is the humility and self-denial that hopes and trusts that God will restore and exalt us into his presence.
(Today's picture is of a baptism in the Jordan River that I recently witnessed.)