Saturday, July 1, 2017
Repentance is Visible by Action
Isaiah 1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
The charge against the Israelites was powerful. The prophet was comparing them to Sodom and that, in and of itself, was condemnation. They were a people who had refused to follow the ways of God. Now, they were given an opportunity to change their ways, but this would need to begin with repentance.
The people of God needed to be cleansed and purified but this could only be accomplished if they engaged in full-on repentance. This repentance would need to be deeply personal and visibly practical. Chrysostom tells us, “Repentance is not what is spoken in words but what is confirmed by deeds.” (Homilies on Repentance and Almsgiving 7.3.10) It was time to put away evil and to get busy with doing good.
The medicine of God heals our failures and transforms them into hope for the lives of others. Mercy for God’s people is visible when become the voice for those who have none. It becomes obvious when, instead of visiting only those with reputation and fame, we prefer paying honor to the orphans and widows. John Wesley encourages us to show our “religion to God, by practicing justice to men.” He charges us to “defend and deliver them.” (John Wesley’s notes)
There is an expectation on the part of our Creator that the Holy People of God will be engaged in visible acts of justice in this world. Sinfulness is self-centeredness and leaves no room or space for Christ-centeredness. When Christ is at the center our motivations and actions become transformed. We begin to think and act like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The word “justice” seems to frustrate some people and there is a fear that by speaking of “justice” we are somehow not engaged in evangelism or seeking to save the lost. The reality is that when you look at scriptures such as the one today, you discover that repentance, salvation, are all intertwined with justice. God is a just God, and God’s desire is for us to become more and more like the visible reflection of God in Christ. This has to do with the very character of God being revealed in the nature of God’s people. It is the upside-down activity of the kingdom of God where we serve the last first and the first last. It means we reach out to those on the very margins, love them, and seek to be system changers, providing pathways to opportunity. It requires intentionality on the part of the people of God.
We cannot just speak of repentance, but we must engage in acts of justice in this world. This is God’s call to the Israelites and is for us today. May we listen, obey and follow God to the margins, bringing the love of Christ to those with the greatest need. Our love for Christ will be visible in our actions in support of the least of these.
Lord, thank you for the reminder to serve those in greatest need. Please, open my eyes, heart and mind today to those who need a touch from you, through me. Amen.