The Big Difference a Small Preposition Makes

Dr. McKay Caston
5 min readAug 21, 2023

In December 1998, NASA launched a spaceship called The Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO). Its primary objective was to collect data on Mars’ climate and weather patterns, serving as a communication relay for upcoming Mars missions. However, shortly after entering Martian orbit in September 1999, the orbiter burned up in the atmosphere. A mission that took years of work and millions of dollars was lost.

What went wrong?

Upon inspection, NASA scientists were dismayed to discover the issue was not mechanical. Two of the teams working on the orbiter during production used different measurement standards. One used imperial (US) measurements, while the other team used metric.

The orbiter was lost because of the failure to use consistent units of measurement. Such a small oversight led to mission failure. An oversight that easily could have been corrected.

When a Small Error is a Big One

The same idea is true for repentance. Repentance is a pivotal part of our doctrine as followers of Christ. A small misuse of the term, however, could mean a colossal misunderstanding for Christians. It all comes down to the use of a preposition.

Using the wrong preposition in how we describe the concept could unintentionally cause grace to burn up in the atmosphere, preventing not the Mars Obiter, but the gospel from landing in our hearts. That’s why we need to rethink the preposition we use to define repentance.

The English word translated as repentance is metanoia, which signifies a radical change of mind. Think of metanoia as a complete 180-degree turn of the heart. It’s not just a slight adjustment but a total, complete change of direction, especially concerning how I view my personal sin and the nature of God.

In my seminary courses, I often ask the class to define repentance in one sentence. You may identify with nine out of ten people who answer, “Repentance is turning from my sins to Jesus.”

“FROM” — What’s the Problem?

Turning implies a movement away from something. It implies a resolve to change my life. In other words, the phrase “turning from my sin to Jesus” sounds like I’m making a promise to stop…

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Dr. McKay Caston

I create resources to help folks tether their lives to the cross of the risen and reigning Jesus | www.mckaycaston.com