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If "Stop It" Worked, Jesus Coulda Stayed Home

  • Steve Daugherty Pastor and Counselor
If "Stop It" Worked, Jesus Coulda Stayed Home

Jesus sounds like he’s got a megaphone to his lips outside a rock concert in the opener to Mark’s gospel. He was talking repentance, that thing where people undergo dramatic changes – removing piercings and tossing out albums and never again wishing others a limp and secular “Happy Holidays” in December.

"The time is complete, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news." —Jesus, Mark 1:15, my rendering

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"Repent": A word with baggage.

"Repent": A word with baggage.

The word "repent" has come to look best in picket sign scrawl. Few words have as much baggage. I’ve heard it shouted by one sinner at another quite a few times, which reminds me the worst sins are always other people’s.

I used to imagine Jesus shouting down sinners this same way. The one big difference being he did so from a perfect life. But then I started to notice that in the Bible religious folks told him to repent and even called him a devil, so perhaps his repent was different from theirs.

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Repentance is more than behavior modification.

Repentance is more than behavior modification.

The word, at least originally, has more to it than behavior modification. Translated from the Greek, it literally means “change your thinking” or, as we might say today, “Wake up!” It’s less a demand that others stop doing something and more the chime of a soul’s alarm clock. You know this intuitively because the checkers in our past generally elicit a “Man, was I an idiot. What was I thinking?” rather than “Man, I am so evil.” We know in hindsight most often our issue has been foolishness. A lack of awareness.

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To truly repent, we need our thinking awakened to the Kingdom in our midst.

To truly repent, we need our thinking awakened to the Kingdom in our midst.

There is, according to Christ, a Kingdom in our midst that’s over and under and permeating whatever temporal empire or nation or kingdom we may be standing in. Right here, at hand. It’s not confined to geography or a yet-to-be-experienced afterlife. It’s the state of things being as they are supposed to be. Now. This domain, by Christ’s account, is immediately available. Right there in a cubicle, in a ditch where your car’s radiator steams, in the penthouse pool cabana, and at the dinner table of our enemies.

Boundless Love.

Infinite resource.

Like treasure buried right in your yard. Thinking differently is the shovel that unearths it. Our being merely good boys and girls may or may not ever have us stumble upon it. In this awakened thinking, we will come to believe some things, to disbelieve some things, to adopt some things, and to let loads and loads of crap go.

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An invitation to come awake [repent] is very different from a behavioral ultimatum.

An invitation to come awake [repent] is very different from a behavioral ultimatum.

It’s the difference between a nun wielding a ruler and the Christ handing me coffee at my bedside, asking if I’m ready, after all these years, to get out of my bed and live. When we realize demands aren’t held over us, then we have a better chance of resisting the urge to hold it over others. As it comes from peace to make peace, repentance is the lifelong process of learning to see goodness, not cease badness. The gift of sight by a Father who doesn’t slap hands but washes sleepy eyes. This Kingdom of goodness, we’re standing in it. It stands within us. Anywhere, anytime, in anyone, just waiting to be observed. Repent and see what is. “The Kingdom of God isn’t something you go discover and colonize,” Jesus once said. “Nor can anyone legitimately say, ‘It’s here!’ or ‘It’s there!’ Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”

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Repent of your repentance to a higher-level Santa.

Repent of your repentance to a higher-level Santa.

We spend too much of our lives believing our timid minds. And we use those same timid minds to attempt “repenting” into something that would be observed favorably by God, whom we’ve really reengineered into a higher-level Santa, if we would dare list out the traits. Our faith is the concerted effort to get him to remove us from the naughty list.  This is the cheapest, most played religion.

Repent of this repentance! Leave Santa for the kids.

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A god protesting us through angry sign holders in reaction to our sin isn’t worth much more than our avoidance.

A god protesting us through angry sign holders in reaction to our sin isn’t worth much more than our avoidance.

But a God calling us to wake up so we don’t get things twisted up in the first place – that’s a God who wants to set us up for a win. A God that doesn’t try to control our behaviors, but one who teaches us how to control our own minds. To be humans.

"History has revealed too many people who have tried to be spiritual before they have learned how to be human! It is a major problem. Maybe this is why Jesus came to model humanity for us – much more than divinity. . . . Get the ordinary human thing down, and you will have all the spirituality that you can handle."  – Richard Rohr

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“Because first I must repent.”

“Because first I must repent.”

I shut off my car in the driveway, and I pause before getting out to go into the house. Why?

Because first I must repent. I must check and likely change my thinking, its content, tone, and frequency. The Kingdom is at hand. Will I see it, or will I go into my house and encounter my family believing my unsophisticated, unadjusted selfishness?

I’m heading into a meeting. First, I should go repent in the restroom. There, in a stall designed to shield others’ eyes as I dispose of that which has no value to me, I ask myself if I’m feeling ripped off by anyone or anything, recently or ever. Do I feel generally owed? I try to walk out of that place, my hands washed, my eyes open to how paid in full I may choose to be at any moment, and therefore how uninhibited I can be in Loving like I like to be Loved.

In a few moments I am going to ask my children to explain why, other than the fact that they are children, they haven’t done what they’ve been told to do. I must repent first: Have unmet expectations, condescension, humiliation happened to me today, motivating me to demand the members of my household give me what I’ve been robbed of? Am I going to be my children’s loving father or a bullying, wounded ego? Will I teach them “power” or strength? Will they walk away feeling Loved or fought? Once I repent, I may not even need to bring up their youthful oversight. Funny thing about getting logs out of my eye first; I often find there was no speck in your eye in the first place.

I’m having a conversation and I feel the urge to start talking. Perhaps the urge to begin out-storytelling you. I repent. Can’t I just listen to someone else’s good or terrible day and leave myself out of it unless invited? Wake up, Steve, or you’ll sleepwalk all over them.

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Repentance as a way of life.

Repentance as a way of life.

Before I go into school, or work, or into a conversation or before I think about commenting online, I must remember to repent. This way I don’t unthinkingly believe people must approve of me for me to have value. That people must be sexually attracted to me for me to have a sense of worth. That my witty criticisms on government, an opposing team, the board of directors, or the manufacturers of a product will somehow translate into my being seen as intelligent, boosting my social rank. I must evaluate what I think are pearls, whom I’m calling pigs, and what Love demands I do if I’ll repent enough to hear the instructions. I must repent in my mind over and over or I’ll default to a kingdom of Me. The Kingdom, whose economy is Compassion and not morality, is right there, roaring like a spring under my feet. I just have to remember the importance of dowsing for it. I have been gifted the control of my mind, if only I’ll care enough to remember I have it. When we see our minds are an engine waiting to be fired up, repent isn’t “stop it” as much as it is “start it.” It’s about finally beginning. Sanely. Lovingly. Awake and aware.

The Kingdom is at hand. For the Love of God, don’t sleep through it.

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Taken from <i>Experiments in Honesty</i>

Taken from Experiments in Honesty

© 2018 by Steve Daugherty. Used with permission by Worthy Books, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, a division of Worthy Media Inc., All Rights Reserved.

For fifteen years, Steve Daugherty has been a pastor and counselor. Steve has served as teaching pastor for more than a decade at Crosspointe Church in Cary, North Carolina. Steve’s writing, including devotionals, prayer journals, and group materials, has already been enjoyed by thousands. Steve is also a conference speaker, storyteller, and poet who jumps at the chance to capture imaginations outside the traditional church context. He has been married to Kristi since the 1990s, and together they raise three children, Emma, Anna, and Ian. Learn more at stevedaugherty.net.

Is there anything left to learn about God’s love?

When Jesus was asked what mattered most to God, his answer was seemingly simple: love God earnestly and love others the way you want to be loved. In his debut book, Steve Daugherty dives deep into this command and what it means for those who follow Jesus.

Throughout Experiments in Honesty, Steve shares stories from the Bible and his own life to explore the ideas of compassion, fear, anger, and faith. This journey will lead all who want to follow Jesus to understand the truth about God’s Love—that it sets us free from fear and allows us to love others more than ourselves. That is, after all, what matters most.

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