This post is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.
In the first book of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, as he is reflecting on God as Creator, Barth begins meditating on the fact that this Creating God is also our Father. He begins talking about what “Fatherly Lordship” might look like, and what impact this “Fatherly” dimension might have on how we look at his “Lord-ly” commands on us–like the command to “repent”. And so, as he is focusing on God’s Fatherhood in the Gospels, he writes these beautiful words on repentance:
Metanoien [the Greek verb for “repent”], to reverse one’s thinking, to think afresh, to think through to God and His kingdom, really means in the rest of the New Testament too, and here in the Gospels especially, to consider the fact that we must die. But it does not just mean this, but whatever else it might mean, it can mean only that if first and decisively it means this.
Further, note that “Thy name”, “Thy kingdom”, and “Thy will” are the objects of the first three petitions of the prayer directed to “our Father, which art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9f), and it is on these that the three which follow rest. In the context of the New Testament, then, the Thy makes these petitions absolutely equivalent to the saying : “Teach us to reflect that we must die.”