Leadership, family, theology and world events
I know it is hard to judge the actions of those who are holding signs with Biblical texts at intersections and are doing something while you are just sitting in the car. We feel like, “who am I to judge.” Or maybe, “Who knows, this message might work for someone.” Does it?
I teach my kids that before you say something, you need to decide what your goal is. The goal can be either to let go of what is inside of us: anger, frustration, and irritation. Or, we can try to change someone’s view and thus his or her life style or at least a certain action. The first goal is easy to achieve, you just have to say whatever you want to say and any words and emotions are fine. But if the goal is to be heard or to impact someone else’s understanding, we have to choose the right words, emotions, examples, etc., so, it will be accepted. If the goal is to bring people to Christ then we have to use a method that works. Alienating ourselves from the listeners, as a rule of thumb, doesn’t help to accept the message.
The phrase itself is correct, but the listeners and maybe even the message bearers don’t understand the true meaning of it. When the Bible speaks about repentance it means, “to turn around” or a radical change of your understanding and thus, your life style. Repentance is not just about not doing one sin, it is about submitting your whole life to Jesus.
Correct me if I am wrong, but most people for whom those signs are written for, have a different concept of repentance, and often the signs are leading in that direction. For them repentance means, “Okay, I have to stop using drugs, having premarital sex, or cussing.” This is a very misleading message, because people are not saved because they are not doing that particular sin, but because they submitting their lives to Jesus, and THEN He works in their lives to change their lifestyle. And besides, a person cannot change himself or herself without Jesus.
The Gospel message and even center message of the whole Bible is Jesus. Because of Him we are saved, we are free, and we are going to heaven. Shift attention from Him in our message and it is not Gospel anymore.
As one active Christian said about college picketing: “They make Jesus look like a complete jerk.” Jesus was going to the sinners: prostitutes, tax collectors and regular folks and spoke to them in a way where they were accepting His message. When I read the Bible I see Jesus, the One who holds high standards, yet He says: “I know you can’t do it on your own, that is why I left my throne to be with you. With Me, you will overcome.” That is why the Gospel is called The Good News.
The biggest problem with the “Repent or go to hell” signs are not that hell isn’t real or that people don’t need to repent, but it is not the Gospel message. The Gospel message is pointing to Jesus, while the religious messages are pointing to people’s performance.
By the way, repentance was the main message of John Baptist. “…Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15. Speaking today’s language is something like: “turn around and listen and believe Jesus came to save you, to help you, you are not alone any more.”
It doesn’t mean that we should be quiet, but we must present the correct Gospel message in a way that is understandable to listeners and helps them to accept it.