To change one’s mind, to repent
A Clever Verse for Context
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (metanoeō)” (Acts 17:20)
The season of Lent is all about repentance: the reorientation of our hearts and minds toward God. The Bible is full of characters who experience repentance (metanoia): Sarah, King David, Jesus’ disciples, the Apostle Paul, and God as well. In the book of Jonah, God is planning to destroy the sinful city of Ninevah. But, when the city’s residents amend their ways and pray for mercy, God changes God’s mind (metanoesan) (Jonah 3:10, Septuagint). What are we to make of this divine show of repentance? Perhaps the gospel we are to receive is that the heart of God tends toward mercy, even to the point of repentance.
In one of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates claims to have changed his mind (metanoeō) when he wishes to make a change in his approach to a question (see Plato, Euthydemus 279c).
Clever Questions for Further Reflection
Is “changing your mind” the same thing as “repenting”?
What is God showing us in changing his mind about destroying Ninevah?
What are the things that stop us from changing our minds? What makes repentance difficult?
A Clever Prayer to Close
Holy One, forgive us our sins...
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Forgiveness is no easy thing,
when our hearts have been
broken, our feelings hurt, our sensibilities
It is hearts like ours that are turned
against you and hell
bent against one another.
Untangle us, Oh God.
Teach us to forgive others
Turn our hearts toward mercy.