There is an Aesop’s Fable I read as a child called The North Wind and the Sun. It goes like this:
Romans 2:4 asks, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”
I like to rephrase that verse a little bit, since the word “repent” has become so much a part of that religious fog which keeps us blind to the truth. To me, the word falls flat and heavy, like the sound of a massive iron bell falling into soft earth. It evokes images of great disapproval or the yelling of street preachers of hellfire and brimstone. It weighs me down, as it’s designed to do. It might motivate change for a while, but for all the wrong reasons. Painting a picture of God and the world that is just a bubble off the truth.
One author explains, “In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nacham (to feel sorrow). In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), “after/behind one’s mind“, which is a compound word of the preposition ‘meta’ (after, with), and the verb ‘noeo’ (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word, the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by ‘after’ and ‘different’; so that the whole compound means: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”.” So I like to paraphrase Romans 2:4 this way, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that it is the kindness of God which leads you to a change of heart and mind?” You thought one way before, and now you think a different way. The trajectory of your life changed forever.
Romans 8:15 clearly describes how God views his relationship to us. “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” “Abba” is translated “Daddy” or “Papa” and is the intimate, endearing, and very trusting term a child uses when addressing his Father. “Daddy, can you help me?” or “Pick me up, Pappa” might be some examples where the more formal “Father” or the casual “Dad” would never work. It suggests safety and love, protection and help, closeness and belonging. I am his. He is mine. It is the very same term Jesus used when he prayed himself in Mark 14:36. “Abba, Father,” He said, “all things are possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
“Daddy, help me.” And great tears of Love fell like raindrops of blood.
Therefore it is not the Judgement of God which leads us to change, but it is the Kindness of an Abba God. (Daddy, Papa God – as one who is passionate about us, loves us, and is fiercely protective of our hearts).
If it is God’s kindness that leads to a change of heart and mind, let us take it a bit further. It is known that how we treat ourselves (by ourselves I am referring to our very inner world. The you of very you) is directly tied to how we view and treat other people. Imagine that kindness is the fertile ground which promotes the growth and fruit in your life. How many of us are unkind to ourselves? When we fail. When we struggle. When we look in the mirror. When we examine ourselves. If honest about it, we do not treat ourselves well. Our inner dialog (and our outer if we talk to ourselves) sounds angry and hard. We name ourselves “stupid”, “ugly”, or “weak”. We stuff our grief and sorrow, telling our heart to suck it up. We berate ourselves for feeling so deeply for so long. We treat ourselves in ways we wouldn’t dream of treating another person. Our ground is hardpacked earth. It is difficult for anything good to grow.
Having a right view of who God is and what he thinks of you is vitally important, because it influences what we believe and thus how we act toward him, ourselves, and others. Unless we abandon ourselves to discovering who God is and how he views us as our Abba, we will miss the depth of his loving kindness and continue the struggle to make ourselves into what we imagine is acceptable. It begins with a search from the deepest parts of you to find out who God really is. Like you might begin any friendship, it has a beginning and progresses onward like an infinite journey. You introduce yourself, and know immediately that nothing about you has ever been hidden from him. Your friendship grows through time spent and attention paid. You begin to recognize him in the world around you and there are more invitations to further exploration and deeper intimacy. Each step of friendship requires more vulnerability, risk taking, and deeper levels of trust. You are sowing your seeds of friendship in the fertile ground of love, and sowing a crop of intimacy and belonging. You accept. You are accepted. You have always been accepted. Then, slowly, the attentive kindness of your adoring Pappa changes you.