Turn or burn? Or yearn to turn?

Away on vacation this week, I’m re-posting some of my earliest posts that still help frame how I explore faith, community and culture in my life and here on my blog. It's interesting to go back and see where I was and where I am now...

This post is several excerpts out of a post from December, 2006: "Repentance: Turn or burn? Or yearn to turn?":

In a society where individual fulfillment is a free-for-all of personal preference, even at the expense of others, the message of repentance is as unpopular as ever. Why would anyone want to turn towards Gods, especially considering the weak alternative that Christianity supposedly offers? The unfortunate part is that the Christian response has all too often countered within the same framework; namely, an individual reform with individual benefits, most often associated with avoiding hell. As the traditional warning goes, “turn or burn!” So the tendency to motivate repentance has been to, “scare them into the kingdom.” However, most of you would agree, this message nowadays falls on deaf ears.

If Jesus’ message of repentance to his mostly Jewish audience was about radical identification with God, it's implied that repentance still means the same. Jesus acknowledged the expectation in the Jews and responded with a call to turn to towards him - a turn not for the purpose of being morally pure, but for the purpose of being identified as the people of God. Repentance, then, is identifying with who we really are.

Repentance is our response to the longing we all have to belong. Hence the second part of the title, “yearn to turn.” Yearning connects with the desire we all of have for true community. An individual understanding of Christianity and repentance as just a moral ethic fails to address this innate part of our being. Perhaps this is the hardest part about repentance, because no longer can we simply respond individually, reforming our actions to some sort of moral ideal. Now we have to identify with Jesus in the context of community. In this way, we repent together.


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