He means you and me. And everyone.
Obviously, our country is divided. Many will see this as a surprising new concern, and some will see this as a long-standing cancer. It doesn’t matter ultimately when you realize the tension as much as you see your part.
The Social Right and Left pretty much stand at war. Each accuses the other. Each views the opposite with disdain if not outright disgust. And most see it as a necessity to pick one side or the other.
A trainer of mine, in Trinity’s early days as a church plant, really pressed me to see the Gospel as not sourced in either socially conservative or liberal values. Jesus and His Kingdom are simply not of THIS world. The Gospel of Jesus forces all of us to consider a third option…
In Acts 17:20 Paul the Apostle said that God “has commanded all men everywhere to repent.”
My neighbor might be a great guy. And if you saw me be rude to him, you might be (rightly) appalled. But what if my neighbor is really a man of very mixed morals? You might consider that I was justified. And what if my neighbor was a white supremacist? You might think that I am required morally TO be rude to him. See what happened there? Based on earthly terms, our behavior gets gray and my motives get interpreted to maybe be even noble.
But if my neighbor is made in God’s image – and all people everywhere ARE – then my rudeness is exactly that. RUDE. Inappropriate. Hurtful. Sin. And if you are shocked at my treatment of a good neighbor, then what do you make of every last sin I have committed against the most Wonderful, Beautiful, Worthy, Loving, Pure, HOLY Person in existence??
All men. All people as in every last one of us. All of us have things for which to repent because the Gospel teaches us that we have done something unimaginably worse than sin against our neighbors. We have betrayed, rejected, denied, avoided, resisted, and at our core defied our Maker. We deserve a rage immeasurably greater than any fury being expressed in our streets.
All men everywhere are to repent. To repent is to turn. It means a total reversal. It means going back from where you were headed. And it means a turn of mind – which to the ancient Greek meant a genuine turn of the heart. It was not merely lip service. It was a real core change.
We believe that is possible in the Gospel because we are trusting Jesus to change something that we cannot change, to do something that we cannot do. We trust Him to remove all of our guilt because of His free decision to be justly punished in our place. And, critically, we trust Him to change our nature – to change our very heart impulses – as surely as He changed DEATH by His resurrection. It’s not for nothing that the Apostle Paul called the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of resurrection.” So, by trusting Jesus, real core change is not just possible; it’s inevitable and enduring!
God has commanded it – all men everywhere are to repent. It is not a suggestion.
So this week, to which side have you tilted? Or on any given day, where do you trend? Are you more Right? Or more Left? And just how deeply have you believed that “THE PROBLEM” is somewhere in someone on the other side?
By the Gospel, Jesus has taught me that I am “THE PROBLEM.” And I have repenting to do. Every day. The good news is that He is not waiting for me to get it right before He loves me or commits to me. At my very worst, at my most opposite to Him, He loved me.
So I have a lot to repent of. How about you? And I see a LOT of angry, or scared, or deeply hurt neighbors all around me. And rather than waiting for them “to get it right” (or waiting until I get it right) before I would move toward them in love, I want to trust Jesus to do in me what only He can do. I want to trust Him to fill me with His love and use even me as His agent of redemption.
Things to pray for:
- Repentance. Read Psalm 139:23-24 and ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart to see what hurtful ways are in you so that you could genuinely repent. Pray that He will empower you.
- Hope. Give thanks to Jesus for His MIRACULOUS grace to sinners like us!! Ask Him to restore in you the hope of His saving love and power in your heart.
- Courage. Ask the Lord to bolster your heart to admit to things you’ve been avoiding, or to confess wrongs that you have done – either by transgression (going too far) or omission (not going far enough)
- Regard for others. Ask the Father to open your eyes to just how deeply He has loved you – when you were terribly wrong – and to fill you with His love for your neighbors.
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