Archives for posts with tag: repent

 

As some of you are aware, I spoke this past weekend at the annual Minnesota Bible Lecture Series (MNBLS) in Minneapolis(http://www.mnbls.org).  The topic this year was the Gospel of Mark.  Gwen and I had a wonderful visit and were able to see some old friends from our seminary days, and made some new friends as well.  I thank Fr Marc Boulos and his parents, Paul and Rose, for their hospitality during our stay.

During the course of my talks, one of the listeners had a question related to miracles.  This topic again came up in today’s Bible study at St Mary.  They were both good questions, and since they were raised I have thought quite a bit about the topic of miracles. 

It seems that when most people think about Jesus or the Bible, or even religion in general, they think about miracles.  And certainly there are miracle stories throughout the Bible.  Even down to our own day we hear about various miracles throughout the world.  I must admit, nonetheless, that speaking about miracles makes me a little uncomfortable.  What makes me uncomfortable is not the miracles themselves, or the idea of miracles, but the fact that so many people misunderstand or overemphasize miracles.  I made a couple of points related to this topic at the MNBLS and during Bible study.  Since the people who asked the questions seemed to benefit from what I said, I will share my thoughts with you as well.

First, miracles are miracles because they are extraordinary.  Miracles are miracles because they defy the natural order.  They operate in a way that makes no logical sense.  In other words, they are not everyday occurrences in our lives.  If everyone–or even most people–who have a terminal disease are healed, it would not be miraculous when someone is cured of an otherwise incurable disease.  It would simply be the natural order of the universe.  If every time a car spun out of control on the interstate it was put back on its course before hitting another car or causing an accident, then it would cease to be miraculous when that does happen to people.  But these exceptions are not the norm, and thus they may fall into the ‘miracle’ category when they do happen.

My point in bringing this discussion up is certainly not to discourage people from hoping in a miracle.  Nor would I tell people not to believe in miracles.  Again, I have heard (and perhaps even seen) miracles happen.  My wife has seen them happen as well in her work as a nurse.  As a pastor, what concerns me about people’s hopes in a miracle is that the hope is often misplaced.  The hope is often in a miracle because we idolize this life.  The hope is because we are scared to die.  The hope is that we will not have to face our Maker–or at least that we could delay it a little while longer in order to have some more fun on earth.

This misplaced hope for a miracle is related to the second point I made.  Even in the Bible when a miracle happens (except in the case of the Resurrection of Christ), the person on whom the miracle was performed still dies later.  St Lazaraus, who was raised after being dead for four days, is no longer with us–he died again.  Tabitha/Dorcas, who was raised by Peter, once again died.  The blind, the deaf/dumb, the people with the unclean spirits, they are all dead and gone.

Again, this post is not meant to depress people, but is an effort to encourage us to focus on one of the main aspects of the Bible: our judgment after death.  Even when God allows a miracle to happen, the people on whom the miracle was performed die eventually.  Sooner or later we all are faced with the grave.  And if we believe the Bible, we all will be faced with the Day of Judgment, at which time all things hidden will be manifest; every deed will be revealed. 

To sum up my (hopefully coherent) rambling: whether we are the beneficiary of a miracle or not, we all will face the dread judgment seat.  One of the main purposes of Scripture is to prepare us for that day.  It gives us the answer key to the final test, before the final test is given.  If God allows us to benefit from a miracle, we thank Him; but we always need to remember the end is eventually coming.  We thank God for giving us more time to repent and we make every effort to correct our behavior before we are called to give an account before Him—because we know miracle or not, that is the final destiny for all of us.

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In Genesis 6, we are confronted with a difficult reality.  We tend to think of God in abstract terms.  We also are inclined to think of God as some sort of cosmic ‘nice guy’–you know, like the teacher we have all had who was the easiest grader in the world, who liked to be ‘friends’ with the students, but from whom we learned absolutely nothing about the subject matter of the course. 

Genesis 6 presents us with a different picture of God.  Not because God is ‘mean’ or ‘angry’ per se, but because God is actually a good teacher–he may not be best friends with his students, but he challenges and admonishes them to get the best out of them.  He looks at the bigger picture, like great teachers, who know we will not truly appreciate them for another 10 or 20 years.

As one of my great teachers, Fr Paul Tarazi, used to joke, you will not see Genesis 6:6 on a bumper sticker: “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”  For some reason, that verse does not give us the warm, fuzzy feeling we like to have towards God.  But it does present us with a tough reality: we often disappoint our Creator because of our sin and disobedience. 

Although we tend to think of God in abstract terms, the Bible regulary assigns human-like attributes and feelings to God.  Genesis 6 reminds us we often grieve God.  It is a sobering thought, if we take it seriously; and one God hopes will lead us to repentance, NOT to despair.  As St Paul said: “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world” (i.e. despair) “produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

We can grieve and mope and fall into despair because of Genesis 6:6, thinking God does not love us and having no hope for our salvation.  Or, we can wake up to the reality we often grieve God, and can be motivated to change the way we live our lives.  The fact God gave humanity a second chance after the flood shows that God hopes we will choose the second option–that we will decide to repent and change our lives to live according to His commandments.