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Repentance and Subversion

Written by Daniel Tidwell : March 25, 2008

Yesterday I had a conversation with some friends. In the middle of our time together one member courageously brought forward a question about our time together. She reminded us of how she had opened a topic for all of us and had been met with silence. We all remembered being moved by her openness with us and we all remembered our own failure to enter with her into a place of pain and transformation. Without telling her story here, I can say, that she struggled with a pattern of being responded to with deafening silence in her life. It took a lot of courage, passion, and humility for her to stop being silenced and come back to us and ask us to face how we had shared in that pattern of suppressing her voice.

In this encounter, each of us was called to account for our failure to love well and to repent for our complicity with cycles of sin at work in our community and the life of a friend. In a real way each of us were invited into a holy moment where our own sin was met with bold grace that led to reconciliation. We found that our friend’s risky act of repentance called the rest of us to repentance as well.

Repentance is self multiplying. hmmm…. sounds like something Jesus said about his kingdom…”a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough….” hmmm…

So that leads me to the examples of subversively facing injustice that Jesus presents in the Sermon on the Mount as told by the author of Matthew. Yes, there are the regulars, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give your cloak as well… these get preached on a lot, and I think are huge, but there are so many others in the sermon as well.

Consider Chapter 5 verse 42 “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Essentially, it presents a proactive generosity in the face of need around you.

Or how about 6:3 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” Perhaps we can see the subversion of giving in secrecy in a society that lists the highest charitable donations in magazines, and allows contributions to be deducted from our taxes–so that it’s almost like it doesn’t cost us at all to help others.

As I continue to read the rest of the sermon, I am struck that many of the practices Jesus lays out as normative for His kingdom, if implemented in our culture, would be a radical subversion; a dynamic turning from the systems of sin and injustice that govern our daily lives. So then, to turn from the systems of sin in the world and start walking in the ways of Jesus would constitute repentance on a scale dramatically more vibrant and meaningful than a tearful moment at the end of a church service.

If I understand repentance like this: actually participating in the ethics of Jesus’ kingdom, then it means my spirituality is tied up in my daily patterns of economics, relationships, consumption, and time allocation.

So… tying these two streams of thought together…

Real repentance seems to be:

a) born out of other acts of repentance that hold up the mirror of Christ to our lives.

b) following the subversive patterns of Christ that cause us to boldly face our own participation in the patterns of our world that let sin reign over our lives and the lives of others.

In suggesting these two points, I want to be careful to emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in leading us in these paths. Coming from a Pentecostal tradition I want to be mindful to those Christians who voice a concern for unbalance on the side of works ahead of faith. I firmly believe that it is out of the work of Christ in our life that we are able to follow the guiding of the Holy Spirit that leads us into the life of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed here among us. Born out of our relationship with God we are guided by the Holy Spirit into rhythms of life that produce the kind of subversive/repentant actions.

Peace.

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