Metánoia Is a Necessity for the Church

by C. Colson, E. Vaughn

A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world-and might even be more difficult to save-said C. S. Lewis.

The monastic orders of the Dark Ages could not have modeled communities of character if they had looked like the troubled world about them. Today, in a new age darkened by the collapse of character and the dissolution of faith, the church cannot model the Kingdom of God if it is conformed to the kingdoms of man.

Too often in recent years the church has suffered from the same collapse of character that is so widespread in our culture. Too often the church has been apathetic, marked by individualism, and constrained by the love of self rather than the love of Christ.

If the church today is to be the church, it must diligently protect its spiritual integrity. This begins with what the Greeks called metánoia, which means a change of mind, and is translated in the New Testament as "repentance."

•The repentance that God desires is not just contrition, or acknowledgment and confession of our sin. It is also a daily attitude and perspective.

• Repentance is the process by which we see ourselves, day by day, as we really are: sinful, needy, dependent people. It is the process by which we see God as He is: awesome, majestic, and holy.

• Repentance is the essential manifestation of regeneration that sets us straight in our relationship to God and so radically alters our perspective that we begin to see the world through God's eyes, not our own.

•Repentance is the ultimate surrender of self. It is a radical change of mind that goes beyond spiritual stirring and inklings of interest. Unless there is metánoia, God has not been allowed to take control. An unrepentant Christian is a contradiction in terms.

• Repentance is the first of Martin Luther's 95 Theses: "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent,' He willed that the entire life of believers be one of repentance."

• Repentance is the first word of the gospel. It is the centerpiece of John the Baptist's message. "Repent and believe" were Jesus' first words in the account of Mark, and His last words to the disciples commanding them to preach repentance and forgiveness and forgiveness of sins.

• Repentance for Christians, is both individual and as a body. Each person needs to reflect a life of repentance just as the corporate church needs to model that same attitude of faith and life.

• Repentance is a rare message in today's church because it requires confrontation with an uncomfortable subject: sin. And sin does not sell well in our feel-good culture. When sin gets personal, people get skittish. Only the conviction of personal sin, however, brings us to Christ.

From Against the Night by Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn. © 1989, 1999 by Fellowship Communications. Used by permission of Vine Books, an imprint of Servant Publications.

Charles W. Colson served as special counsel to President Nixon from 1969 to 1973. In 1974 he pleaded guilty to charges related to Watergate and served seven months in federal prison. He is now best known as founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship, which is the largest prison ministry in the world.

Ellen Santilli Vaughn, who collaborated with Chuck in writing this book, is former vice president of executive communications for Prison Fellowship. Her most recent book is The Strand.