There is a common misconception that bad things happen to good people because they did something bad. God is a vengeful God of course and shall smite thee for doing wrong. It’s a common misconception about the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac because it is the easy answer to so many Old Testament questions. Not to mention this view of today’s reading. I didn’t make this graphic, I found it when I googled ‘repent’. If you’re bored sometime, though not in the next 9 minutes or so, do a google image search on repent and see what’s out there. There’s some real fire and brimstone burning in hell kind of stuff. Which is disturbingly wrong on a number of levels. Old Testament or New Testament, the truth is, if the question involves the Bible and has seemingly easy answers, it is appropriate to suspect the accuracy of those answers.
For example, if 42 chapters in the Old Testament book of Job support Jesus’ response in today’s reading, I think we can lay to rest the idea that God punishes people according to their wrongdoing. A group of Galileans are executed horribly and a tower falls on a group because they were worse offenders by some arbitrary standard? Jesus says straight up no! So it must not work that way if Jesus says it doesn’t.
Not to mention if God wanted to do a bunch of smiting for bad behavior then we’d have no need of Christ. I don’t think it would create large disagreement if I said that we all need Christ. We seriously need Christ in some really big ways. We need Christ because as a species humanity has proved time and again that we are unable to keep our stuff together. No matter how hard we try to be good, not matter how hard we try to do it right we will fail. No matter how many rules or laws are out there and no matter how hard we work at being righteous people, we will fail.
If we believe that we can do everything right and that we are indeed good and righteous people then we have let our own egos take over our reality, not to mention our common sense. I’m not saying we’re bad people either. Just people in danger of letting our egos get in the way of our need for Christ.
I’m also not saying that we should do unwise things just because we’re bound to fail anyways so what difference does it make. It is certainly true that God is here for us and isn’t in the business of smiting us but it is also true that karma will eventually come to say hello if we exhibit unwise behaviors on a regular and ongoing basis. There are very few places around here where driving your car 100mph down the road is going to end well. It is also true that if you eat nothing but McDonalds fries for an extended period of time, this isn’t going to end well either. But that’s not God exacting a good old fashioned smiting on you. That’s just foolishness coming back on you for making unwise choices.
Okay fine. So I’m going to do things that God doesn’t like, I’m going to separate myself from God, I’m going to SIN. And God will still love me and welcome me back, right? Time and time again like pulling the right card from the deck, right? What is this repent business then if I’m going to be forgiven anyway?
Here’s the thing about repentance. Repentance means we sincerely acknowledge what we did wrong, we confess it to God and as needed to one another. And then we make a legitimate effort to not do that sin again. The first two are, if not easy, then pretty straightforward. The third part, the legitimate effort to not do that sin again, is the hard part.
It’s also important. It’s one thing to admit and confess our sins but when we refuse to repent of them we put up barriers between ourselves and God. Note that WE are the ones putting up barriers. I mean it isn’t like you can do the sin stuff over and over again and not notice something is out of whack. Repentance opens up our hearts and minds to what God is already doing in our lives.
That’s the great thing about God. Well, one of a hundred great things about God. If we’re headed in the wrong direction we’re not required to keep going that way. God opens a way for us to make a course correction in the direction of our life. We can and will sin. But we don’t have to stay there. Thanks to our God being a God of second chances. And third. And fourth.