and [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."I am still reeling, not from recent charges of selfishness, which are largely true, but from reading Luke 24:47. It is also part of the Great Commission and yet how often do we hear it read? "... that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem."
-- Luke 24:46,47 (NET)
How often do we hear about repentance these days when we are talking about people becoming Christians? We hear more about 'asking Jesus into your heart.' But this is fatally flawed: We start with ourselves, acknowledging that something is missing and seeking something that will fill the hole. We find the Filler and that's it; after he has come it would seem that there is nothing further to be done. He's there. You're fine, the gap has been filled. You are now complete and can get on with life. Jesus has become merely a piece of spiritual polyfilla, shoring up a crack in one's psyche. After that, what is he?
But if we start from the need to repent, and with that the knowledge that repentance is not so much a once for all event but a continuing process, then Jesus' own line 'repent and believe' (Mark 1:15) puts the focus not on the hole that needs to be filled but rather the life that needs constantly to be refocussed on God, by a change of behaviour (the 'repentance' part) and a change of mind (the 'believe' part).
Luke talks frequently about repentance leading to a change in behaviour -- Zacchaeus' belief in Jesus was demonstrated by a change in attitude to his riches and by a change in attitude toward those whom he was hired to tax. He now saw the poor not as defenceless ones ripe for exploitation, but as ones valuable to God and in need of assistance. And he saw that his behaviour in the past had been unjust and that he needed to make amends. The Law stated that he had to give back double what he stole.
For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for ass, for sheep, for clothing, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, 'This is it,' the case of both parties shall come before God; he whom God shall condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.'Zacchaeus knew that he had been guilty of a breach of trust and so did as the Law required. Zacchaeus however gave not double but rather four times as much -- double double -- not because he was compelled to but because he wanted to. It was an expression of his repentance and belief.
-- Exodus 22:9
[Memories of Pakistan -- 9 January 2003]
© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2006