Tuesday, October 21

Forgiveness and Repentance

Recently at Quest, we continued our discussion about forgiveness. This time we look at the story of John the Baptist from Matthew 3:1-12 and Luke 3:1-18. This is the story where John is baptizing people before Jesus begins his ministry. He is telling people to repent and be baptized. While this is going on, many of the Pharisees come out to see him from Jerusalem, and John doesn’t have very kind words to say to them. In this story, we see the idea of repentance added to the forgiveness picture. Here is some of what we talked about along those lines:

· We started with a discussion about what repentance means. Repent and repentance are words that used to be commonly used, but now basically only are used within the context of church. The words mean to turn away from. They have a meaning similar to retreat, but where retreat implies (particularly in a military sense) that someone had to or was forced to go back, repenting is voluntary. The idea is one of intentionally turning your back on something and going the other way.

· If we repent from a sin or something we do wrong, the idea is that we realize that it is wrong and we don’t want to do it again. We turn the other way. This idea goes hand in hand with forgiveness, particularly when we are asking for forgiveness. If we ask for forgiveness, we should be wanting to turn away from what we did wrong and not do it again. If we can’t do that, we have to ask whether or not we are really sorry for what we have done.

· When we come to God, repentance is more than just turning away from our specific sins. It involves changing our very way of living life. We can see this in the Luke version of the story, where the tax collectors and soldiers (among other) ask John how they should live now that they have changed their lives. John gives them ideas on how to change things. For example, he tells tax collectors to not collect any money they don’t have to, and he tells soldiers to not extort money or give false testimony. So developing a relationship with God, and the repentance that comes with that, leads us to live our lives differently than we did before.

· The Pharisees who came out from Jerusalem appear to have no interest in repentance or changing their lives. They don’t come across as being willing to do anything different, and John calls them out on it. This is important because the Pharisees would have been seen in society as the people who had their act together spiritually. However, what John is saying that that, no matter what their background and no matter how much they appear to be religious, everyone should respond to God and his message by displaying repentance in their lives.

We also used this story to wrap up our discussions about forgiveness and to bridge to the next topic. John tells his listeners to repent because the kingdom of God is near. Over the next several weeks we are going to take a look at what the kingdom of God is and what that idea means for our lives.

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