Penance, Repentance or Metanoia

Last Saturday I reblogged See, there’s this thing call biology’s informed post, Metanoia. I wanted to take it a step further because I thought her words so important to our Christian walk.

jesus-mary-joseph

As we are about to celebrate the birth of our Savior, what do we choose to celebrate? Do we celebrate our own salvation? Do we celebrate our position over others who are not saved? Or do we celebrate the gift our Father bestowed upon the entire world?

Penance is the confession of a sin, followed by an act that shows you feel sorry for a sin, followed by the forgiveness of the sin.

Repentance means to feel remorse or regret for your sins. It often is expressly coupled with a premeditated necessity to change one’s ways before receiving grace and forgiveness from Christ.

When we apply either of these words to the gospel, it means you cannot come to Christ exactly as you are. It means you must do something first, or prepare to meet Him. The danger of this doctrine is that it ends up denying the free grace, love and forgiveness Christ was sent here to offer in God’s name.

Just as the word shalom in Hebrew means so much more than hello or peace, metanoia means more than repent.

In ancient Greek translations of the Bible, the words in Aramaic/Hebrew were either teshshuva (H7725) or nacham (H5162), translated into Greek as either metanoia/metanoeo (G3341/40) or strepho (G4762)*

Metanoia is a Greek word meaning to think differently, to reform or change one’s mind, and can be defined as “a transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion.” It is not the restrictive word for repentance/penance; it is so much more than that. It is a radical mindshift into the Gospel of grace.

For example, the word paranoia, which means literally being beside the mind or as we would say, “out of your mind,” is the opposite of metanoia, which taken in the context of the New Testament would mean to be transformed by God to get in your right mind.

A change ultimately begins with a change of heart, a change of mind. To sigh as a way of expressing regret, yet having a comfort over something lost (nacham) and a turning in response to God’s call (tehshuva).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Look how Jesus raised the importance of the mind when he added it to The Sh’ma (Listen!), the first word of the cornerstone prayer of Jewish faith (Listen, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One…, (Deuteronomy 6:4-9):

Deuteronomy 6:5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

Mark 12:30 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

It all comes down to a choice. Will we or won’t we allow God to transform us? Will we choose to neglect God’s voice? Will we choose to use a hammer of sin on our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and our enemies? Or will we choose to accept and offer the free gift of unconditional love and extravagant grace He so unreservedly bestows unto us?

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. Because of the grace allotted to me, I can respectfully tell you not to think of yourselves as being more important than you are; devote your minds to sound judgment since God has assigned to each of us a measure of faith. We each have our own role to play in the body of Christ. (Romans 12:1-4) 

 

*The numbers next to the Aramaic/Hebrew and Greek words are their place in Strong’s Bible Concordance.

25 comments

  1. Love the post, I don’t think the nuance between penance and repentance is widely understood, but is very much needed. I recently ran across Metanoia in my study of Matthew, juxtaposing it with paranoia is very helpful. Thank you for your post.

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    1. You’re welcome. So glad you visited!

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  2. Great Word! … Like Spirits agree… I have been resurrected from the deception I was taught as a child … now I am rejected by family, friends and the false church that deceives so many. I died! He resurrected me a new creation. I will never return to the past life… It holds nothing but bondage, pain and suffering and so much deception. I keep my focus on the Beloved and allow him to perfect love in me that makes me whole… I enjoy Shabbat rest everyday now and forever not just one day a week. I found my home.. I found where I belong… I was created for Eden, I was created to worship him who loves me… I am my beloved’s and he is mine… we are made one in spirit, soul and body… I can not separate from him or I would die the death… It is he who gives me life and breath… for me to live is Christ and to die… is gain… I have heaven on earth as I draw nearer to him… the kingdom of heaven is in me and I walk in his presence a continual feasting on the Word, communing and fellowship with him in the truth. What can I say but that I was created to delight in him all the days of my life, Thank You, God Almighty for delivering me from darkness, death and hell on earth!

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    1. What a beautiful, empowering and grace-filled expression of your walk with Him. This is what the gospel is all about. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and may your words bless others who read them. ❤

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  3. “It all comes down to a choice. Will we or won’t we allow God to transform us? Will we choose to neglect God’s voice? Will we choose to use a hammer of sin on our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and our enemies? Or will we choose to accept and offer the free gift of unconditional love and extravagant grace He so unreservedly bestows unto us?”

    Oh, this last paragraph is SO important, Susan. Amen! Part of our “metanoia” is having our judgmental, grace-hating minds renewed so that we stop bludgeoning others with our subjective ideas of right and wrong, and give them the SAME grace we would want for ourselves. This is easier said than done. Especially, with people I can’t stand, or who have hurt me. It requires the death of my right to be judge. I must love. That’s the cross we’re to carry. And it’s a lot harder than just trying to be a “good person.” That’s real surrender!

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    1. “It requires the death of my right to be judge. I must love. That’s the cross we’re to carry.”
      Yes, Mel. I truly believe those stuck in judging, stuck in a sin-based gospel, have never allowed themselves to surrender to the healing that the full and irrational grace and unconditional love of our Father, through Christ, offers.

      I think that unwillingness to surrender comes from fear: “I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve,” which gets passed on to others. It’s sad, really. Those walls are up for a reason, and God is the only one who can break them down through the willingness to be transformed.
      And we must continue to pray for those burdened hearts, because they deserve this wonderful gift.

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      1. Amen, Susan. Well said. When we pray and give grace, instead of holding on to anger or unforgiveness, we open the way for God to do what He does best…change hearts! Every person does deserve this wonderful gift, even those we think are our enemies.

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      2. Just as He said, Mel. 🙂

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  4. I had missed that whole because I had a bit of trouble with my blog. Thank you.

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  5. Very good Susan!

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  6. To have a need even as God has a need for a relationship with us. I have came to see after much heartache and son that I desperately need Jesus. It is in my need that I found his love for me and fellowship with him. A wonderful relationship that we share. God transforming me into himself. Only not a God, but goodness,humility and love. What a precious way to live. Having a need. Thanks Susan for sharing this perfect story with us.

    Blessings Tom

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    1. You’re welcome, Tom. As I said to Rick, I often need to write things down in order to understand them clearly myself. And as IB said, there is a joy in the gift of salvation Christ brings us. We have lost that. I pray this year, as we celebrate His birth, we remember the joy in our Father’s precious gift.

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  7. Amen! Well said. Paranoia, the opposite of metanoia, that`s a good analogy.

    In the bible we have have phrases like, he came to himself, he woke up. They all mean things similar to having come to your senses or to come alive. So to confess is actually to bring ones mind into agreement with God.

    We really do need to teach this more. To repent has an element of joyousness to it, not necessarily shame. Christ went to the cross for us despising the shame.

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    1. “To repent has an element of joyousness to it” Oh, how lovely, and well put. Our joyousness has been lost somehow in our “evangelizing.” We have forgotten the cherished gift we have received. Thank you for putting it so succinctly. ❤

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    1. Thank you, Vincent – for the support, for the love, and for continuing to spread the Gospel of love. ❤

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      1. You’re very welcome Susan, God bless you and yours 😇

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  8. Thanks for a nice in-depth look at how these words are different, and how we should look at them as Christians. It is so important that we allow God to do the transformation in a persons life. If we try to push them one direction or another, we will most likely push them away. God must do the work, the metanoia, in their lives.

    When I first got saved, I returned to my childhood church, and UCC church that really did not preach salvation as evangelicals see it. I continued in many of my sinful habits for a couple years, but was steadily growing in grace and knowledge. I truly believe if I had stayed in Iowa at that time, and been confronted with people saying I needed to straighten up, that I would have walked away from Christ. II am so thankful God has a plan!

    Jesus does tell the sinner to go and sin no more after He has touched their lives. We must give them an opportunity to work with God on when that will take place in their lives. It’s not our decision.

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    1. Absolutely, Pete, it is not our decision for anyone else to make – it is between one person and God. That is what makes the basis of his or her relationship with God so empowering.

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  9. Good reminders for us of the process! I like to refer to it as a heart decision! Thank you for sharing your walk of faith!

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    1. It is both heart and head that comes from allowing the Spirit to lead us. It’s that big “S” word – Surrender. As long as we hang onto control, we will never let God completely fill us. And it is indeed a decision, just as you’ve said.

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  10. Amen. Fantastic post, thank you. 😀

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    1. You’re welcome, Steve. Sometimes I need to put it into writing for myself in order to clarify it.

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