Mr. Rogers and Repentance

Growing up as a “church kid,” I heard a lot about hell, which provided me with a lot of incentive to pray the “prayer of salvation,” oh, maybe a dozen times by the time I hit junior high. What if I hadn’t prayed sincerely enough the time before? What if I was still on the way to hell?

Throughout my times in church, I’ve observed an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, the message of salvation in Christ is preached with a huge emphasis on the afterlife. By accepting Christ as “Lord and Savior,” we are taught, we will avoid the flames of hell while reaping the reward of eternal life in Heaven.

On the other hand, once we pray the special prayer, emphasis quickly shifts to life on this earth. We are taught that we need to love the God who snatches us away from the fires of Hell. Emphasis may be placed on what we’re doing for God. It’s tempting to worry that we aren’t loving Him enough (which, we aren’t). In my own experience, though, it has been very challenging to cross that bridge between “Phew, I’m not going to hell” and walking with God on a daily basis. I believe that, given the number of times it is actually mentioned in the Bible, hell receives a disproportionate amount of airtime on Sundays and even in tracts.

So often, the word “repent” is used to signify the single major act of repentance that evangelicals associate with praying a single prayer. The same prayer I repeated so many times, throughout my childhood.

In my own experience, even when I have heard repentance preached as a daily activity, the connotation I have of it (with hell) makes it into a very scary thing.

My mom has helped me a lot with this, discipling me to understand more about what it means to walk with God on a daily, moment by moment, basis. My mom has explained to me that repentance is the choice, at any given moment, to turn back to God. It’s not this big, scary, thing. It’s not about being terrified of hell. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the Savior.

With that said, I’d like to share this song by Fred Rogers.

What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel

“What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel” is a song about how we respond to anger (see Eph. 4:26). For me, the song is also a beautiful reminder that repentance is always an available option. I believe that the Gospel is not about fearfully praying your way out of hell, but about having the ability, at any moment to turn and return to God. Because Jesus made the way. THE GOSPEL IS ABOUT THIS LIFE— NOT JUST THE LIFE TO COME.

In Mr. Rogers’ song, I especially appreciate this lyric, which, for me, sums up the message of repentance:

It’s great to be able to stop

When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,

And be able to do something else instead

And think this song:

I can stop when I want to

Can stop when I wish

I can stop, stop, stop any time”

When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,

And be able to do something else instead

And think this song:

I can stop when I want to

Can stop when I wish

I can stop, stop, stop any time”

At any time, I can stop and turn back to God. We all can.

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