The time is up! Change your whole way of thinking and reshape your life, for the kingdom of God is confronting you! (Mark 1:15)
Jesus called on people to change. Our bibles suggest he used the term repent. The words below represent a typical translation of Mark 1:15.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”
To our ears, repentance often conveys a sense of guilt and being sorry for something. It is usually understood as a feeling. But the Greek word used in the gospels for repentance is metanoia. It means a fundamental shift or movement (meta) of the mind (noia). Repentance then is a movement, not a feeling. It is not about being sorry for the past. It is about thinking differently and changing our lives for the future.
It is through metanoia that we begin to learn how to follow Jesus. Metanoia means to turn around, to change the form, to take on a whole new identity. This involves a change of life that is more basic, deeper, and more far-reaching than our common understanding of the word repentance. It involves a change of orientation, direction, or character that is so pronounced and dramatic that the very form and purpose of a life is decisively altered and reshaped. It is the first step in a journey of transformation. It means to begin walking away from the old to the new. To Jesus, it was a change so dramatic that it implied starting over again through a second birth – being born anew.
“In reply Jesus declared, `I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.’” (John 3:3)
Jesus’ declaration is not to be confused with what is known as “born-again Christianity.” He wasn’t talking about accepting him in one’s heart. He was certainly not talking about speaking in tongues or other charismatic gifts. He was talking about shifting allegiances and values away from a mainstream culture of power, domination and violence to the kingdom values of peace, justice, compassion and servanthood.
The fundamental change of metanoia that Jesus describes happens through a learning process. It involves learning a completely new way of thinking about life, learning a new way of seeing reality. It means discarding conventional wisdom and common sense for an unconventional wisdom and an uncommon sense. Start by going the other way, Jesus says to us. You are a captive of your culture and, although you may not be able to see it, you are headed in the wrong direction.
For instance, in America our cultural view of reality is one of climbing an economic ladder. As we climb, we keep our eyes on the rung above, towards those who have more than we do. Because some are incredibly wealthy, we tend to think of ourselves as poorer than we really are. When we turn around and go the other way, as Jesus calls us to do, we look down the ladder. Then we are able to see the vast majority of people who have far less than we do, and we begin to understand how incredibly wealthy we really are. It’s a change of perspective, a shift of the mind, a whole new way of thinking. As a result our life becomes fundamentally different.
The reign of God is in opposition to the prevailing social order. It involves embracing a new set of interpersonal and social relationships. In the proclamation of Jesus, these relationships are described in terms which set them in direct opposition to the social relations of the domination system.
The call to discipleship, the call to follow Jesus Christ, demands a fundamental break with the dominant values and conformist patterns of the majority culture. If you choose this path, you will be living counter to your culture—always! You will always be part of a small group—a leaven in the dough, a salt in the soup, a treasure in the field, a sheep among the wolves.
values of the kingdom of this world
It is perhaps easiest to describe the principles of the reign of God by comparing and contrasting them with the conventional principles and values that surround us in nearly every society.
The God of Jesus—a God of compassion and justice—desires human relationships of justice, peace, equality, freedom and wholeness. What we have around us is often just the opposite.
When people view the world as a hostile place and other people as indifferent to their welfare, and, most importantly, when they believe that they are ultimately alone and can depend only on themselves for their security, then they will pursue a sense of well-being through:
- Power, domination, and even violence over others
- Prestige, status, and honor through social hierarchies
- Wealth and possessions, selfishness and greed
- Solidarity of family, tribe, group, race, or nation and the exclusion of others
values of the reign of God
The vision of the reign of God is a vision of the current state of affairs turned upside down. The reign of God requires a conversion, a turning around, a new way of thinking and living. It depends on a worldview which believes that ultimate reality (God) is loving and compassionate and cares for our welfare; that we are not alone in an indifferent universe; that we can rely on the love and compassion of other people.
If people view God and other people as loving, compassionate, and concerned for their survival and welfare, they can free themselves from anxiety about the future and their personal security to live a life of:
- Equality and partnership
- Inclusive community
“Change your whole way of thinking and reshape your life,” says Jesus, “for the kingdom of God is confronting you!”