Answering Michael…. or trying to….

We’re in the changing room getting ready for another game of squash, lacing up worn out shoes and adjusting our knee braces. Two men in denial about their aging and squeezing the last drop from a game we love that is the domain of a younger generation.

“Why can’t you just repent before you die to make it into the pearly gates?” Michael pipes up with a grin as he pulls his racket from the bag and bounces his open palm on the strings.

“Why would you want to wait so long, I’d better answer you in my blog?” I replied. We exchanged a few lines of banter before heading for the courts and another energetic hour of grunts, sweat, exhaustion, and pleasure through the pain.

It’s a good question often on the lips of those who wonder what the attraction is – of God, Church, Christianity, and a life of faith? They cannot imagine the same pleasure to be experienced there as they find in sport, a vacation, membership of a golf club, or in pretty much any other activity. The mention of God evokes images of a childhood bored in church, rules, dull religion, and possibly people with two faces.

If we understand God to be religious and stifling, a killjoy who shrinks life into a narrow box devoid of joy no wonder we want to wait for the last minute. Come to think of it, if that’s how we imagine life with God why would we repent at all? Who wants to live eternity in that kind of environment?

Repentance actually means changing my mind about something, thinking again. It’s not something that’s done under duress but rather a response evoked by revelation. Like misunderstanding someone’s motives and actions and expecting the worst. Until meeting them and discovering the exact opposite is true and all their intentions were born from love and concern for my well-being.

Repentance is when you anticipate an excruciating blind date and the most gorgeous woman or handsome man knocks on the door – everything changes. At that moment of revelation the question is no longer, “How long can I delay this attitude change?” Rather it becomes an exclamation of incredulity, “Why didn’t you knock on my door sooner?!”

How we contemplate ‘repentance’ depends entirely upon how we understand the character and person of God. That’s why he revealed himself in Jesus at a particular time in history…. And why so many who lived at that time ‘repented’ when they met him – he was nothing like they’d been led to believe by religion. He was compassionate and kind, made them feel special and he filled them with hope and a sense of purpose when they were in his presence. They were no longer victims in a land occupied by Romans, they were known by a God with whom the impossible became possible.

Look at Jesus, and God will come into focus…. He’ll take your breath away, and repentance will rise up quite naturally as the most obvious response…. And you will ‘just do it’! Imagine if the ‘killjoy’ is actually inviting you to a banquet – dance and celebrate – and much more!

I know it’s not a complete answer…. a beginning…. what would you say?

John Cox

Christian Author

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