Repent and Go

A bit of self-disclosure: if I had grown up during the nineties or later, I would likely have been diagnosed with ADD and probably be on the Asperger’s spectrum, or as my wife affectionately calls me, “a bit Aspy”. To this day, I still find it difficult to concentrate on things I’m not interested in (work, taxes, emotions), and find it hard to not block everything and everyone out when I am interested in something (theology, history, science).

Thankfully I had a few teachers who knew I needed to be “inspired and encouraged” in class (always bored/easily distracted) and they would give me the freedom to read books once I finished my assignments or tests, sometimes even for the duration of the entire class. Other teachers not so much; they were usually frustrated with my non-conforming behaviour, and I was frequently given spares instead of continuing in their class, or transferred to another class when they had enough of my “shenanigans”.

I admit that I wasn’t the best-behaved student for those teachers (I’m truly sorry, Ms. McKenzie), and may have gone beyond the acceptable limits of student comportment. I’m not proud of my behaviour, but I did eventually (thanks to my inspiring teachers) learn some valuable lessons from school, a few of which became much more useful after I became a Christian. I guess you could call this the “stuff I learned in school that’s actually useful” article, since I’ve never used the quadratic formula, nor have the dates of Mongol events in the AD 1200s added any value to living my normal life. 

Two lessons in particular stand out to me, and I’ll share one of them with you here, but the other I’ll save for a separate article.

This lesson I call the “Repent and Go”, because in my mind, I hear my 12th grade Socials teacher Mr. Schmidt’s slightly German accented voice saying it to me. In reality, he would say, “take it, and go” with a slight pause after “take it” while I was perusing the bookshelf in his classroom for something to read after I finished my classwork, and then nod his head towards my desk with “and go”. I knew that he didn’t want me to be distracted, thereby being a distraction to others, and to just take a book, return to my desk and be quiet, to be decisive, not distracted. You can imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger saying it if it helps. Also, a certain Canadian comic has taken the phrase as well.

So a good number of years ago now, “repent and go” popped into my head while reading Hebrews 12:1-2.

The ESV says: “…lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”.

The AMPC says: “strip off and throw aside every encumbrance, and that sin which so readily clings and entangles us”,

The CEB says “throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up”,

And the CEV renders it “we must get rid of anything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go”

I like reading multiple versions of scripture to get a bigger sense of the author’s idea, and as you can see, when these are put together they give us exactly that. The phrases lay aside, get rid of, strip off and throw aside, all convey a sense of decisive action of necessity and determination when eliminating whatever it is that impedes your race. As the Nike tagline says, just do it.

Of course doing the opposite, if we really think about it, is utterly absurd. Imagine it; you’re on the racetrack, struggling to run because you have this extra weight, this baggage of sin or other impediment to running your race. Maybe you’re just walking because it’s so heavy, or barely moving at all. So you repent, which is good, but instead of throwing it all aside and immediately picking up the pace (going), you stop and take a look at it, poke it around a bit, step in it and then start remembering and thinking about it. Can you hear your self-talk? Here’s what mine probably sounds like:

“Oh yuck, look at that sin, it’s soooo disgusting. Why did I do that? I hate that sin. I’m just going to poke it. Ugh, it reeks. Oh great, now I’m stepping in it. Hey, you over there poking your sin, did you see this one? What was I thinking, right? But you know I was in a weird place then, life was really hard, and it’s not like, a really bad sin. Nobody got hurt, and…”

Before you know it, you’re all entangled up in it again, and you’re not even running the race at all. You’re just standing there, stuck in that mess. You can just as easily get distracted by seemingly pious guilt and shame over your sin, yet forget that you have been forgiven, which is still an entanglement. Don’t do it.

Instead, “Repent and Go” with unwavering urgency and resolve. Make sure it’s true repentance, and then go. Run like the wind. Don’t look back, don’t stop running forward, don’t dwell on the past or your sin and guilt, just throw it off and go onward towards the prize, which the author to the Hebrews tells us is “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”.

Maybe you won’t hear Mr. Schmidt’s voice in your head, but you can still repent, and go. And tell everyone else you see on the track to do the same, which is a good segue to my next blog called “Potlucks and Grace”, about the connection between true Christian fellowship and persevering faith. You won’t want to miss it.

by Dale Albertson