“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”Luke 13:2-5 NIV
Some followers of Jesus in Luke 13 seem to conclude that bad things happen only to bad people. Jesus is quick to remind them that judging others will not improve their situation. Casting blame and searching for reasons for every bad thing that happens simply doesn’t help. We stand before God, not compared to others, but based on our own heart.
Twice in these few verses, we are given the same statement: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” My experience has been Christians often encourage others (and theirselves) to feel sorry about what they’ve done…show remorse for past actions. But that’s not what Jesus is saying here; the statement is not simply about feeling guilty about what has already been done. Jesus wants us to deal with our past and make changes moving forward.
Christ is calling us to not compare our situations with others…that creates a false standard… nor do we ignore the sins of the past and move on. Instead, we must face our wrongs and make changes in the present, so that our future is in accordance with God’s will.
Don’t ignore the past, but don’t get trapped in it either. We must not turn a blind eye to the ugly side of our past and allow those wrongs to continue. Instead, we compare our lives to Christ, make amends to God and others we have harmed by our sin, and then change our actions and systems to promote righteousness and justice moving forward.
This is exactly what David models for us in Psalm 51. After David committed murder to cover up his sexual wickedness toward Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet points out David’s sin. David’s repentance is captured in the words of Psalm 51. Read it slowly and notice how David addresses the past sins, makes amends to God in the present by seeking forgiveness, and then looks ahead at future actions he will do to change the course of his life.
And now the hard part. Take an honest look at your life. Is there anything in your past you haven’t dealt with? Are there any sins that still linger in the present? Have you asked God for forgiveness and direction going forward? Have you changed your actions so this sin doesn’t continue to plague you in the future? Good intentions are well and good, “but unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Lord, convict us. Show us our sins and guide us to deal with the past before looking to the future. Help us remove everything from our lives that is sinful, remove our judgmental spirit, and help us reflect Christ, and Christ alone. Forgive us, Lord, for passing judgment on others, assuming their guilt, and presuming our innocence. May our repentance, our faith, and our fellowship show the world your greatness and love. Through the name and power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.