Step 19: Don’t “Behave.” Become!

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daily text logoMarch 9, 2015

Luke 13:1-9

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

LISTEN TO HIM

better than the best

I will never forget the Sunday following the Monday of August 29, 2005. It was the Sunday after the Monday on which occurred the most devastating and deadly natural disaster in the history of the United States: Hurricane Katrina.

I remember it because of what the preacher said in the church I visited that Sunday. To sum up one of the worst sermons I ever heard in my forty-eight years of hearing sermons, he said this: “Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on the people and city of New Orleans, Louisiana.” And he got more than a few Amen’s.

Underneath this message is a completely wrong notion of who God is and what God is like. Bad things happen to bad people. Translation: The reason Hurricane Katrina did not destroy our town (besides the convenient fact that we were living a thousand miles inland) is because we were living lives that please God.

That’s what’s going on in today’s text. In the midst of Jesus message to the crowds about the judgment of God, someone interrupts him with this kind of query. In essence, they were saying, “Oh, we get it. It’s like that time when Pilate slaughtered those Galileans at the Temple as they were coming to offer their sacrifices. They had it coming didn’t they. They were being judged by God.” Hiding just beneath the surface of their theological pronouncement was their self-assured sense of righteousness that prevented such a thing from happening to them.

Let’s just say Jesus swung for the fence on that one. Check it out again.

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

I want you to notice the placement of the exclamation point in the passage above. To their tragedy he adds one of his own: the falling of the tower in Siloam. He might as well have said Hurricane Katrina. Jesus effectively says noone will be immune from Divine judgment. Neither does the judgment of God happen by falling towers and senseless tragedies. The judgment of God is a given, else there is no ultimate justice and if there is no ultimate justice there can be no ultimate mercy either.

The Kingdom of God is the world made right again. To repent is to join that movement. But it’s time to reframe repentance. For too long we’ve primarily associated repentance with someone pointing a finger at us and saying, “Behave!” Here’s how I see it. Repentance is the hand of Jesus reaching out to us with the invitation to, “Become.” Becoming begins with beholding God as he truly is (i.e. like Jesus). When a person catches a glimpse of the true and living God and they begin to really believe, they also begin to believe in the possibility of their life becoming far more than they ever imagined before. Anyone who has walked more than a mile or two down this road knows that behavior has a way of taking care of itself when the Holy Spirit empowered process of becoming takes root.

Speaking of roots, isn’t that what Jesus is getting at in the parable he told them?

“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

The man wants to bring judgment on the tree for failing to bear fruit. Not so fast, Jesus says.

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

God, in his mercy, is holding back. To repent means to be rooted in the life of God in order to become the person God dreamed you to be in the first place. Listen to how Peter puts it in his letter:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Repentance is not about “behaving” but rather a beautiful, humble way of life– a glorious life. It’s getting on board with the only Kingdom that will stand forever. It’s why we keep on praying. . . .

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

#LISTENtoHIM

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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