Sounds pretty fire and brimstone doesn’t it?
You may be asking – Where’s the grace?
It’s there. In a big way.
The best description I heard for repentance is this – radical re-orientation. It means to turn or be turned back around so that you are facing one another.
Sin can be used as a verb and a noun. To sin is to do an act that breaks a relationship. Sin in the sense of a noun is the state of being. For Lutherans, we believe that someone does an act of sin because they are a sinner. They don’t become a sinner because they sin. Do you catch the difference? It’s slight, but important.
Without getting too deep theologically, we believe in original sin – that we are born in the state of sin. This is a state of brokenness. It is not because of anything we did. And we can’t fix it either. Only God can. Which makes sense – how would you know what fixed looks like if you start off broken? It’s similar to the idea of a color blind person describing what the color red really looks like when they have never seen red as it actually exists. (And yes, I’m color blind. Don’t ask me what I see, I have no idea what you see, so how can I accurately describe it to you? I’ve never seen colors in a normal fashion.)
During Lent, we are called to repent – to turn or be turned back towards God. To do some self-examination and see the extent of our brokenness and sin. To see them for what they are. Not because we are masochistic. But because in seeing our brokenness and sin, we’ll more fully appreciate the forgiveness that God gives us. We can more fully appreciate this incredible gift that God gives us – especially since we don’t deserve it. And when that happens, we are changed. Or probably more accurate – we are changed by God and this change allows us to appreciate what God has done for us. God changes our lives.
Repent or perish can be preached as fire and brimstone. But it doesn’t have to be. There is plenty of good news to be had and heard. Repent or perish!