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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

People Are Not Who They Seem....

A reoccurring theme in a mystery novel I was reading on the weekend was: people are never who they seem.

I mean yes, it was a mystery, so there was bound to be plot twists and turns and I would be sorely disappointed if it were not that way! But what about in real life….?

Are people who they seem?

Well, Jesus was definitely not who He seemed to be – a local carpenter from Nazareth, rather He was sooooo much more!

What about you and me? Are we who we seem? I would guess the truthful answer is no, not really. Why would I say this? I would estimate that each of us, well okay, almost 99% of us have a couple secrets hidden away either in our past or perhaps in present day, that we would not really like to share with the world. People are never who they seem to be. I am not sure our brains could handle knowing everyone else’s secret, nor should we even want to.

Even if you yourself did not have a “secret” you could be married to someone or have a sibling with a secret that you have held onto for years. Example: perhaps you are married to an addict or an alcoholic or an abuser and you would rather cover up their little secret than expose it to the world. You still have a secret, even if it is the other person’s fault.

This brings me to the main subject of this blog, a little word that we have heard, but do we really know what it means: repentance.

A classic Christian word, Jesus used it, John the Baptist used it, the disciples used it, the old testament uses it but for the life of me, I am not sure if I ever heard someone really give a full, and complete answer of what it really means.

Myself, like many, could give you the “pat” answer, ‘being sorry for what you have done and turning away from it.’

My brain starts to do a bit of a not really believing this to be the whole truth as I think about my children being forced to say, “I’m sorry,” and then running away. Not really a heartfelt apology, nor did they say what they were sorry for. Honestly, I kind of think most people are only sorry for the fact that they got caught. It is rare that a person comes up to you and full on apologizes for something that you are not aware of. Most of the time apologies come after the incident has been exposed.

I started looking at what the Jewish, or Hebrew definition of “repentance” means because after all it was used by Jewish people and God in the Bible.

There are many versions based on whatever a Rabbi interpreted the word but here is one that I love: 

Rabbi Eliezer, “repent one day before your death.”  His students or disciples question him about whether one can know the day of one’s death, so the Rabbi answered, “all the more reason therefore, to repent today, lest one die tomorrow.” 

Best to be safe than sorry!

The Mishnah states: “To a man who says, ‘I will sin and repent, I will sin and repent.’ Yom Kippur brings no atonement. For sins against God, Yom Kippur brings atonement. For sins against one’s fellow man, Yom Kippur brings no atonement until he appeases the fellow man he wronged.”  Mishnah is the first major written collection of Jewish oral traditions.

According to Wikipedia Jewish repentance is ‘ethical self-transformation.” I wonder at this, as I wonder how many of us are able to self-transform ourselves. If it was so easy to self-transform, why are there so many diets, self help groups, and why do we set the same New Years resolutions year after year. Could it be we are not actually able really change ourselves?

The New Testament word for repentance is “metanoeo” meaning to change one’s mind, so turning from sin. Picture it kind of like driving the wrong way down a one way street, you will more than likely be doing a u-turn and heading the other way very quickly. That is repentance, turning around and going in the other direction, not to wander back that way again.

The Hebrew word is “shuwb” meaning “to return, turn back”. I had one Pastor tell me that it is like “coming back home”.

Repentance then is not apologizing, confessing, nor is it being sorry that you got caught. It is not feeling bad about your sins, it is not feeling guilty. True repentance involves a heart change that causes you to do an about face and march the other way.

Without a heart change, there will be no lasting change.

I truly believe one of the hugest issues we each have to repent of is the following: believing the lies and words that other people and ourselves have spoken about us rather than what God has said about us. Often we say about ourselves, "I'm not good enough, I can't do it, I don't measure up." If I ask you what were the negative names other people called you? Instantly you can almost hear those voices saying: useless, dumb and stupid, ugly, fat, good for nothing. Can you hear those voices, those people who have spoken negative words over you? Stop it! Stop right now and repent – do the u-turn and head the other way.

Who does God say you are? A child of God, Friend of Jesus, God’s workmanship, Magnificently created, Redeemed, Forgiven, A new creation, Free, A masterpiece, An overcomer and so much more….these are the words we need to remember and believe.

There is indeed a mystery here, there are a few plot twists and turns and it turns out, we are not who we seem, you and me, not at all. If we have given our lives over to God and have the Holy Spirit of the living God inside of us, heck no, we are not who we “seem” to be. We are made in the image of God – do you believe this? We are the walking and talking hands and feet of God, empowered with gifts that God has given us to be used to affect the world around us.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Matthew 16:15

We are soooo much more than what we or other people even know.

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