WEEK ONE: REPENTANCE
Proverbs 3:5-6, 11-12 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
…Do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Today is our last reflection on the Repentance theme this week. If you’re feeling like I am, you are ready for a break from thinking of our brokenness and our need for repentance! The sad news from Florida has also deeply affected my soul. We are so very broken and I could despair. I am very ready for words such as rejoicing and resurrection, aren’t you? But what a gift we have; as people of faith, we know that the rejoicing and resurrection will come, as they have come before.
But for today we have one more gloomy word to consider: Rebuke. I would rather not think about this one! I want to think of God as one who “reminds” rather than “rebukes.” I want to imagine Jesus as a kind, warm, gentle man who laughs off my sins and loves me anyway. I am uncomfortable when I read passages such as Mark 8:33, when Jesus rebukes his dear disciple Peter by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” Ouch!
The blessing comes when I understand how Jesus’ words of correction are spoken totally out of love for US. Jesus doesn’t rebuke to serve any of his own needs. These are not words from a demanding supervisor who needs to meet a sales quota, or a cranky teacher who wants to finish the history lesson without interruption, or an abusive parent who wants to stop us from annoying him. Jesus only wants us all to experience the joy of living as his followers. Even a loving, caring parent cannot rebuke as perfectly as Jesus does. Loving parents may discipline children with the good intention of guiding them into joyful living, too. But what brings a parent joy may not be the same for the child! Jesus rebukes us perfectly, knowing us better than we know ourselves.
Another blessing is that many Old Testament writers believed that people were physically punished by God for their sins, but now, through Jesus, we know our God to be a God of mercy and forgiveness. We are corrected, not punished (except for natural consequences) as God teaches us and reveals our sinfulness. The merciful grace of God frees us through forgiveness, but the loving grace of God perfects us through discipline. Because of Jesus, we can receive admonishment with joy and gratitude.
We feel God’s rebuke when our hearts are troubled, convicted or shamed through Bible passages, Jesus’ words and life, words from other dear ones who care for us, and through the Spirit in our own prayerful thoughts. Our sinful ways are revealed, as well as better ways to live and to be. As the verses remind us, we should consider God’s rebuke a gift. God is guiding our paths to make them straight (and joyful), because we are so deeply loved.
Consider the rebuke, “STOP DOING THAT!” How would you feel hearing those words from a supervisor? From a spouse? From a stranger? From Jesus? Note the differences in their significance and your reaction to them.
Do you remember a time when you felt God’s rebuke or a correction of a path in your life? Recall this with thankfulness. What joys resulted?
None of us enjoy being corrected, but thank you for your loving rebuke and discipline. We are so grateful and joyful that Jesus forgave us, but now help us to grow in perfect obedience to your will- so we may know the joy that comes in doing so. Thank you that we know every correction is only for us; only for us to discover the joy of living according to your ways. Amen.