By August 19, 2020Weekly Update

Repentance as Wokeness

The great mid-20th century preacher, Peter Marshall, said we all walk through life with a call ringing in our ears but with no response stirring in our heart[s, and then suddenly, without warning, the Spirit taps us on the shoulder. What happens?” We turn around. “The word ‘repentance’ means ‘turning ‘round,” Marshall reminded his people.

It’s an ingeniously accessible way of describing repentance—no surprise, since Marshall specialized in what he called “the simplicity of the gospel.” But we miss the meat of his explanation if we overlook what precedes the moment of turning. The Spirit’s tapping awakens us to find new direction, to change our hearts and minds about where we’re headed. It turns us around to correct where we’ve gone wrong, whether intentionally or not, whether knowingly or in ignorance.

But Marshall would also remind us repentance is not a one-and-done event, The Spirit is constantly tapping, repeatedly stirring us to even greater alertness to wrongs that need correcting. And those wrongs aren’t limited to daily shortcomings or past failures that require a great deal of prayer and wisdom to overcome.

The Spirit constantly taps our shoulders to keep us alert to injustices and inequities that trouble our world. Jesus himself tied repentance to living out God’s desire for the world. The Gospel writers condensed his first sermon into one sentence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17). In the language of Peter Marshall, we might read this as “The Spirit is tapping your shoulder. Wake up! A new world is coming!”

A lot of us of have been taught repentance leads to disengagement—we turn away from “the world” and focus solely on faith. But the Spirit isn’t calling us to spiritually construed apathy. If we read Jesus correctly, the kingdom of God is not up there or way off in the distance. It is near and it expects us to engage now.

That’s precisely why repentance can’t be about turning away. It is exactly as Marshall explains—a turning around, a reengagement with the world marked by an intense and animating wokeness that turns our hearts toward justice through the work of the Spirit.

In short, if we’re not alert to the struggles of others and the systemic sins created by greed and oppression—if we’re not woke and moving toward the real work of God’s kingdom, which seeks to free the oppressed and liberate the captives—then we really haven’t repented. And it’s easy, so easy, to slip back into slumber. So the Spirit keeps tapping… tapping… tapping. Wake up! Time to turn around! Again.


We continue our “Just Living” series with an invigorating closer look at repentance. Join us this Thursday at 7:30pm CDT via Zoom:

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Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

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Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.