Word for Wednesday… 180º
Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the present of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus.Acts 3:19-20
Yesterday, I did two things I have not done in over a year. I went inside a nursing home and the home of someone who is not a close relative. Both of these activities had been off-limits on account of the pandemic, and now, seemingly out of the blue, they are permissible (though I did have to sign a lengthy document at the nursing home agreeing not to hold them liable if I contracted Covid). Of course, neither of these activities were as much of a shock to my system as what I did this past weekend, attended a mask-less semi-outdoor wedding reception, and a mask-less crowded indoor graduation party. Again, both of these were within the bounds of the most recent guidance from the CDC (assuming the attendees were vaccinated), but even so, I was not completely ready.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the changes and the progress in our fight against this virus that they represent. On account of my personality I have probably not been missing social gatherings as much as others, but I know they are important. I also understand that doing my job well, and the fullest expression of our faith, both require face-to-face interaction. I think my struggle is the rapid pace at which these changes are occurring. I would have much preferred to slowly ease into them. It is as if somebody flipped a switch and our society did a complete 180 (as in 180 degrees) in regard to all the changes we had embraced to navigate this pandemic. One day we couldn’t imagine leaving the house without a mask in one hand a bottle of sanitizer in the other, and not expecting or wanting to be around a whole lot of people. The very next day we left the masks and sanitizer at home and were giving hugs, shaking hands, tolerating close-talkers, and mingling in crowded indoor spaces, all with reckless abandon.
This whole experience has reminded me of another 180 degree change we will experience if we follow Jesus faithfully, and not one time, but many times throughout our journey. I’m talking about the 180 degree change that true and sincere repentance demands of us. Repentance is a word we talk about often in Christian circles, but we sometimes fail to grasp its full implications. More than simply feeling sorry for our sins it requires a complete turnaround to head in a totally different direction. Our initial act of repentance, signified by our baptism and/or conversion, can be understood as a turning away from our own way of living and a turning toward God and the life he has for us. It can rightly be thought of as a 180 because those two directions are polar opposites, with one leading to death and the other to life eternal. Then, as we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes us aware of certain behaviors, thoughts and attitudes that are not pleasing to God, that also require repentance. These occasions also call for a complete 180 in regards to whatever it is we have been convicted of.
I’ll be the first to admit that changes of this magnitude are not easy. We would much prefer to slowly turn our lives toward God, to gradually cease those behaviors, thoughts and attitudes that we know are not pleasing to him. While our transformation into the image of Jesus is a gradual one, there are times when sudden, drastic change is needed. God will help us in these moments of transition as we yield ourselves fully to him.