Believing and belonging
Jesus began his work as a preacher and teacher by urging those who heard him to change and believe. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News.’ ‘Repent’ means to turn around. So, two thousand years after Jesus said those words, what does it mean to change and to believe the Good News?
It means a change of mind. No matter the circumstances in which people are born or brought up, they need to come to conclusions about what they believe. For a Christian this means a conscious and rational decision that Jesus is worth following. It means deciding that what Jesus taught really is good news for you and for the world.
It means a change of behaviour. At the time of Jesus, a preacher called John the Baptist prepared his hearers for the changes Jesus would demand. They asked John, ‘What sort of change?’ He replied, ‘Give every spare possession to those in need, feed the hungry, don’t steal, don’t use your position to oppress others, tell the truth, be content with what you have.’ These were the principles of those who belong to the Kingdom of God – people who have decided to obey God as their ‘King’. They were very different from the principles by which most people lived. They still are.
It means a change in the way we think about ourselves. For a variety of reasons we do not live up to our own principles – it’s too hard, we are too tired, or we are afraid of what others might think. It is in this context that the love of God is made most evident. He supplies what is needed when humans admit that they cannot rely on their own power and ability to do the right thing. There is forgiveness for failures. There is spiritual strength to do what is right. And there is the encouragement of belonging among the followers of Jesus.
When Jesus said, ‘Repent and believe,’ it was an invitation to turn around and welcome the Kingdom of God. You will not be able to believe the truth about God and live the life of God if you keep going in a direction solely designed to suit yourself.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Where to find it:
About these words:
Written in a letter from Paul to a small church in Rome, in about 60.
And they said...
David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK:
I wouldn't say I seek guidance. I am a believer ... I wouldn't say I drop to my knees and try to find guidance - that's not what I do. I've always found the teachings of Jesus and the Bible quite useful as a sort of handy guide.
Karen Matthews, who began to go to church after serving a jail sentence for a high profile crime:
I get to meet people and talk. The people are kind and don't judge. My favourite passages of the Bible are in Matthew's Gospel. I asked for forgiveness through prayer the first time I prayed. I knew I did something wrong. It lifted me.
Andy Warhol, American artist, 1928-1987:
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer, 1828-1910:
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Malcolm Muggeridge, journalist and broadcaster, 1903-1990:
I come back to where I began, to that other king - one Jesus; to the Christian notion that man's efforts to make himself personally and collectively happy in earthly terms are doomed to failure. He must indeed, as Christ said, be born again, be a new [person], or he's nothing. So at least I have concluded, having failed to find any alternative proposition. As far as I am concerned, it is Christ or nothing.