Karl Jaspers is one historian who speaks of the historical picture in three eras. Pre history speaks of the earliest formation of life on the planet and before written records. History describes that multitude of peoples emerging across the planet with capacities to build, develop and record their own story. Such stories are unique to each community of people. This great era is the one we read of from the earliest civilizations through to our present time.
His third era is the one we are now entering. It is different from all that humans have ever known. This is because it is global and cosmic. It is an era so full of uncertainty. Questions abound as to how we will live as one great mass of people.
Of those who note this new era, they share a common description...We are going through a time of great crisis as we cross this great historical bridge. The crisis is shaped by the clash of cultures, races, religions, wealth, driven by an expanding world of technology developed upon the dominance of a scientific paradigm. There are so many voices proclaiming their opinions. The internet has created multiple megaphones, Facebook, Twitter, and TV being the most common.
Media personalities and Politicians with the aid of such technology shout loudest. What can we make of this thunderous roar of human angst? Are there any truly prophetic voices that can help us manage this treacherous journey into the unknown?
In the biblical time of Jesus the scene was so different. Probably a great deal of dissatisfaction for Jews under the Roman rule and their own untrustworthy religious leaders. One booming voice in particular had a message that captured the imagination of many... People flocked to hear him in the hope of a greater and more fulfilling life. His message was simple…God. From what we read in today’s passage three points stand out.
It’s too easy to rest on our laurels. “I was born into a Christian family and baptized.” John the Baptist witnessed people proudly declaring that Abraham was their father, but he didn’t see them displaying the faith that typified Abraham’s life. Spiritual laziness leads to a dead end. When it happens across society the atmosphere becomes toxic. There is no good fruit
John the Baptist was adamant that he hated hypocrisy. When he called people to repentance, he berated anyone who dared feign repentance but not follow through on a new life.
Our passage highlights two realms of a truly repentant life...
A LOVING LIFE STYLE
John paints a very clear picture. You must become a loving person. If you have two coats, share them with those who have none. If you have food, make sure you share, so that no one goes without. Be honest in all your dealings. People in authority have great responsibility to treat people justly and with respect. Don’t bully or falsely accuse. The list could go on describing a truly loving life that reflects God’s love for all people.
If that is the picture of a repentant life then something that is harder to detect but which is crucial is the genuine depth of spirit and passion with which we love. Repentance requires an ever renewing way of life, but it is really a spiritual experience. In other words, it is about finding that sense of Godness within our capabilities. Jesus likened it to rivers of living water welling up from within.
THE WAY OF LOVE
John’s voice stood out amongst others of his time. It had a message that he believed represented God. It was a way of love and it flowed from deep within so that there was no way of mimicking it. Such hypocrisy was totally abhorrent.
In today’s challenging times, the many voices that we hear can overwhelm and confuse us, but I think John has set a model for responding that makes sense. No hypocrisy! It must be a way of love and it must be of spirit.
John merely prepared the way. As inspiring as he was, he knew a greater one than he was coming. Jesus was a blessing in his day. But we know he was ultimately even greater. He is the image of the universal. In our new era of history, Jesus as the universal Christ is one who truly remains as relevant as ever. Let us genuinely prepare our hearts for an even greater welcome that we have known before.