Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
— Matthew 4:17

I don’t know about you, but this particular instruction has always seemed like a threat to me. Like when parents tell their children to stop misbehaving or else they’ll have to go to bed early.

The word repent is most commonly associated with the cessation of something negative. We’re taught to turn away from our sinful natures and live lives of repentance. But what does that mean?

When I was studying child development – many, many moons ago – we were taught to phrase our instructions in a positive way. For example, rather than saying, “don’t run” we’d tell our kids to “walk please” as we made our way out to the play yard.

This verse is just like this. Repent means turn around. And in this context, it means something like "turn around, because the best thing ever is right behind you!"

And in this context, it means something like “turn around, because the best thing ever is right behind you!”

Research shows that explaining to kids what they should do is much more effective than telling them what they shouldn’t do when it comes to modifying their behavior. And let’s face it; most of us are just big kids. 

So let’s look at this verse through that filter. Rather than focusing our repentance on the things we shouldn’t do, what if we focused on the things we should do? Things turning around and  loving our neighbor, turning around and being generous with the gifts we’ve been given, and turning around and seeking God’s kingdom instead of our own?  That doesn’t sound like a threat so much as a challenge – you know, the fun kind.

Here’s your challenge for the week:

As you wade through your daily activities, think about the areas of your life in which your repentance could be focused.

For me, rather than stewing in anger when faced with a less-than-pleasant personality at work, I’m going to be thankful that I have a job I enjoy (most of the time) and will counteract the negativity by finding a way to make someone else’s day a little easier.