Luke 3:7-20 2nd Sunday of Advent
Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Practice basic human decency. If we cannot start there, we won’t be able to accept what Christ has to offer.
Bear fruit WORTHY of repentance. What should we become? We should become compassionate, kind, and merciful–we should become more loving by practicing justice, mercy, and love. This is our life lived. Identity may be important but it’s not ultimate. It’s not about who I identify myself as; it’s about did I share my coat and my bread with those who needed it.
John did not say bear fruit worthy of me or worthy of Jesus or worthy of God. John said bear fruit worthy of repentance.
God is in the picture, but in this first step, our actions must relate to the action of repentance.
Forgiveness without repentance means we haven’t changed directions
Repentance is more than feeling sorry for sinning and repentance is more than dealing with sin. To repent means that we are going in a different direction. Bear fruit that shows that you are going in a different direction. It doesn’t mean that we bear fruit that shows we are perfect or that we have it all together or that we are saving ourselves. But are we doing things, is our spirit willing to do things that shows we are moving in a different direction?
You see, John exposes why forgiveness without repentance is dead. John exposes why salvation without repentance is incomplete at best and disastrous at worst. John exposes something beyond all obfuscation and lies. Forgiveness without repentance means we haven’t changed directions. And while repentance can be brought about by of economics, politics, and morality–repentance is not a economic, political, or even a simple moral category. Repentance is a fundamentally spiritual category. Repentance is about making a decision concerning–not simply about what’s right or wrong–but about what’s ultimate to us.
John didn’t tell them to pray more. John didn’t tell them to read scripture more. John didn’t tell them to sing more songs of praise. John told them something fundamental. It starts with those people and the community around you. That’s what reveals what is ultimate to us. The way we treat one another shows what our true priorities are. And our ultimate priorities shape our spirit.
When you encounter people, treat them with love, dignity, and respect. Treat people with kindness and mercy. And who should be the object of this mercy and kindness? Are they those who can claim Abraham as their ancestor? Is my neighbor the one who I identify as in my own group of identification?
It’s the one who doesn’t have a coat or food. Identity is not as ultimate as the conditions that make life possible. Food and clothing for those who lack food and clothing is much more of a priority than identity. Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
You see that’s how Christians could enthusiastically (not begrudgingly) pull a lever and bubble in the name of one who emboldened xenophobia and violence towards the other. It’s because they identify themselves as Christian but are not interested in sharing their bread or coat with one whom they do not identify with. This problem is both sides of our political spectrum. In other words, countless of us Christians claim the identity of Christian but have discarded the teaching John the Baptist, yet we think we can access Christ without him.
This is the activity of repentance. Basic human decency and kindness. Admit it, says John. Admit that we don’t live lives and live in a place that truly values everyone. Admit it. Admit that we’ve been silent when we should have spoken up. Admit that the direction that we are going in is wrong and that going back to the good old days is not true repentance. Go in a different direction and draw near to one another. The direction we were heading was separating us from one another, but the new direction seeks to reconcile us. But it’s a reconciliation born of repentance and forgiveness.
Bear fruit. Share your coats. But we live in a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Share your coat. But we live in a world where some folk won’t share because of the way we identify one another. Not John. The ID is not whether you are white or black, gay or straight, from Uzbekistan or Utah, the question of identification is “do you have a coat or don’t you?” Do you have a roof over your head? The question is not yet about our relationship to God because John exposes what the love command reveals… we can never get to loving God and entering into relationship with God if we can’t even share our bread with the hungry.
Faith, hope, and love
©2016 M. J. Sales