Fruits Worthy of Repentance {#LentChallenge}

“Bear fruit worthy of repentance” Luke 3:8.

We are told John’s mission was to “proclaim a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin” (3:3) as a preparation for the arrival of God’s Son. He is the preparation committee. Jesus is coming for a visit and Israel needs some cleaning up. John’s on it.

I suppose it might be somewhat like what I do when important company is coming. Next week I will be hosting dog show judges from Hungary. I’ve never met them. They’ve never been to California. I feel the burden of representation. So my hounds have been going through the grooming mill. There are washings, trimmings, nail filings, teeth brushings, and coat oiling…it’s too late for manners. {I’m also remembering why I don’t do this more often. Grooming a Basset Hound is futile! They can only be happy if they are covered in drool, stink, and dirt.} I want these judges to observe that I have a proper respect for the breed. I suppose I see it as esteeming them by honoring what they value.

John the Baptist sees how unaware and disrespectful Israel has become to the people they were made to be. “Be washed,” he offers. The people respond with toes in the water; they want to be made right with God.

John calls for a more inclusive repentance. Being the people of God was never about being individually at peace with God, but about being a people of God together at peace. That’s the whole point of many of the commandments and codes, right? Unsatisfied with the mere passive repentance of being washed, John pushes his kinsmen out of the water to the active, hard work, muscle-straining next stanza of repentance, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.

Confused, the people inquire, “What must we do?”(Lk. 3:10).

Three responses to three different people groups:

  • Share your coat and food with those who have none (v. 11).
  • Don’t steal money when you have the opportunity and position to do so (v.13).
  • Don’t use your power to steal, threaten, or accuse others. Be satisfied with what you have (v. 14).

Being right with God ripples out to being right with others. If you’re cleaning up space for God to come and dwell, then you have to clean up what is messy, unjust, and inequitable between yourself and others. Jesus comes and dwells in the center of man’s dilemma and the vulnerable, powerful, poor, rich, extorted and extorting are drawn from both the margins of society and strained consciences to be his people together at peace with him and one another.

Repentance is not a baptism to receive but a life to live together with others. This has me searching my own heart. Have I allowed repentance to merely make me feel better about myself? Or, does it bear the fruit of making other’s lives truly better? I don’t steal or extort money from others. But I have left others cold, without the coat of my friendship. I have left them hungry for love. I have asked too much of others. I have been unsatisfied with what I have and resented others for it being theirs. I have put my toes in the baptismal waters while refusing to cross over the line into relationships that are costly.

If Lent is a time to make more space for God in our lives, then this passage today begs us to make more space for repentance to bear its proper fruit.

May we be fruitful today.

 

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