Turning Away and Turning Toward

Jeff Wood

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.  Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4)

We are condemned, and yet we are freed. Doom and hope chase us all our lives. As Christians, we live within this great paradox. In Lent especially, we look inside ourselves with disgust, living in self-awareness that we constantly fall short of the glory of God.  Any minimal self-examination reveals it. We are sinners. 

Yet we also have hope.  We always have Easter’s resurrection hope before us.  How do we move from condemnation to hope?  The way to hope is the path of repentance

Repentance is turning away from sin. It is one of the very first messages of the New Testament, when John the Baptist appeared, crying:  Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.  Whenever I taught about John the Baptist and repentance in Sunday School, I demonstrated repentance by physically turning around, first facing one way (call that sin), and then turning around the other way (call that Jesus). Repentance not only means turning away from sin; it means turning towards Jesus.  

In his monumental letter to the Roman Christians, Paul makes it clear that none of us is righteous. In Chapter 3, he writes: There is no one who is righteous, not even one (3:10).  Also, in the beginning lines of Chapter 2, he is quite clear that there is no place in Christianity for anyone to be self-righteous or to pass judgment on others.  We all live under God’s righteous judgment. Yet Paul invites all of us to receive God’s kindness and grace, freely given to those who turn towards Jesus and accept it. 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, forgive our sins and help us turn towards you.  Amen.     

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