patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

fruit in keeping of repentance

A former student and later colleague of mine posted this yesterday in Facebook.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

With these words Jesus started his ministry. It strikes me that these are words for all of us. Jesus Christ wasn't someone who ever said "Come just as you are and never change." Rather, he was the "Your sins are forgiven, go and leave your life of sin behind you." Repent. It's an uncomfortable calling, but one we all need to hear.

 As luck or Spirit would have it, I’ve been thinking about repentance lately. About just this initial call, of Jesus, for repentance and about John the baptizer’s earlier demand that his audience “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8 NIV).

And about how the word repent—as I was once told in some sermon and as seems etymologically obvious, in retrospect—means rethink. And how the how-to of repentance is so seldom taught, though the how to of its opposite, forgiveness, is the subject of many books and sermons. How you can’t make someone else repent an error (maddening!) but you might help the person rethink it.

But even harder is to cause yourself to rethink. It’s so easy to just skim past that word repent. To think, yes, I’m mean—or envious or lustful or full of hate or whatever one’s favorite sin might be—and I’m sorry for it. And once, after reading the story of those commands carved in stone in Deuteronomy, I suddenly realized I had committed most of them and felt a shame and sorrow I’ve not felt since for my general iniquity.

But to repent in the throes of a misdeed. First to recognize it as repentance-worthy—one’s rage at someone, one’s certainty that one is right and the other is wrong—and then to rethink it, to process one’s rage or arrogance or hate differently in one’s brain, to own then reject it in favor of a better, kinder, less self-motivated course of behavior. That’s hard.