Jesus spoke a parable of a man who had two sons. He said to the first son, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” (Mat 21:28) But the son said, “I will not.” (Mat 21:29) However, later he regretted it and went into the vineyard. The same man told his second son to go and work in the vineyard, and he said, “I will, sir.” (Mat 21:30) However, he never did. Jesus said that the son who actually went into the vineyard to work was the son who did his father’s will.
The most common Greek word used to describe repentance is the word metanoeō. For example, when Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17) Metanoeō is a compound word that begins with the preposition meta which means with or after. Thus, metanoeō means to think afterward or to think differently. Here repentance is a process where we reconsider our lives and our actions. This reflection leads to a change of mind regarding what we view as being right and wrong.
However, in the above verse, Jesus uses another verb to describe the first son’s repentance to obedience. Here the word is metamellomai. This word is also a compound word and also begins with the same preposition meta. This word means to care afterward or to care differently. While metanoeō is a change of mind, metamellomai is a change of heart. The first son went out into the vineyard, not because his mind convinced him it was the right thing to do, but because his heart convicted him of the sinfulness of his previous decision. Sometimes we repent when we have a change of mind, and sometimes we repent when we have a change of heart. Either way, we are led to a repentance which leads to life.
Reading this scripture in this way causes me to ask myself, “Do I engage God only with my mind only or do I engage him also with my heart and emotions?” God wants us to come to him with our whole person, not just with a part of us.