Wednesday, December 9, 2015
When John the Baptist preached repentance out there at the Jordan River, he was calling people to make a choice. The call to make a choice is a note which sounds throughout the written Word. Joshua gathered the Hebrew people at Shechem and called out to them, "...choose this day whom you will serve..." (Joshua 25:15) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters..." (Matthew 6:24) In another place, He said, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves..." (Luke 9:23) And to a would-be-disciple, Jesus said, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)
To choose is a Biblical mandate and nowhere is this mandate to make a choice heard more clearly than in the word repentance. Rightly understood and embraced, it is a word that speaks of choosing a different direction in life. Without God we are living in what John Bunyan called "The City of Destruction." With God we are headed toward the heavenly city, or as Bunyan sometimes wrote, "The City." Another way of expressing the choice inherent within repentance is to confess that before repentance our life is turned away from God and toward self and after repentance it is turned away from self and toward God. When we rightly hear the message of repentance proclaimed in the pages of the New Testament, we come to understand that this is the radical choice with which we are confronted.
But, John the Baptist was not really into theological reflection. He was calling people like you and me to action. He was calling the people of his day and the people of our day to realize that we are either turned toward God or we are not. There is no middle ground. There is no comfortable position of compromise. If we think there is such a place, then we need to get in the front of the line for we have some repentance business to do.