It carries the religious baggage of having been preached and presented as mere confession of sin or sorrow of the heart. But as Eugene Peterson describes it,
Repentance is not an emotion. It is not feeling sorry for your sins. It is a decision. It is deciding that you have been wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own god; it is deciding that you were wrong in thinking that you had, or could get, the strength, education and training to make it on your own; it is deciding that you have been told a pack of lies about yourself and your neighbors and your world. And it is deciding that God in Jesus Christ is telling you the truth. Repentance is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are not going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is a decision to follow Jesus Christ and become his pilgrim in the path of peace.
~ Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
The word repent also carries cultural baggage. Most people picture an angry old man shouting the word toward those whom he considers “less than” on a moral level, as though some people need repentance more than others and some preacher decides the categories.
At the end of the day, repentance is for your good.
Eugene Peterson also said, “God’s arrows are judgments aimed at provoking repentance.” And why would God want to provoke repentance in us?
Repentance brings us back home. It rights the wrongs in our hearts. It allows us to draw close to the heart of our Creator. It honors the true meaning of the cross on which Jesus died for the sins of the world.
God wants you saved. He wants you clean. He wants you pure and holy. He wants you well.
He wants you home.
And he knows that we’re all wandering in the direction that takes us far from home, so he sends his arrows. He reveals his truth. He allows consequences. He whispers through our anxieties and shouts through our pain.
When life is good… when things go wrong… when you feel stuck in the middle… God is reaching out and calling you to keep on turning toward him – to keep walking home to him.