“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”- Mark 1:15
This was the sermon Jesus preached at the beginning of his ministry according to the gospel of Mark. The message is simple but it is hard to preach. We are afraid to preach the message of repentance because it sounds judgmental. It is easier for us to speak about the compassion and love of God and avoid the subject of repentance. We like to leave it for the last. Jesus began his ministry with the message of repentance. The gospel Jesus preached was a message of Love and Compassion and Repentance is the very core of the gospel. To omit the message of repentance is to dilute the meaning of the gospel. It is inevitable. We need to preach about repentance if we want to see the power of the evangelical message manifested in our lives.
Jesus did not preach the gospel shouting at people on a street corner to repent. Perhaps we would like to imagine he did this at the sermon on the mount. We forget that people who heard Jesus preached said that he did it with authority. It was this authority that drew people to listen to Jesus even when he had harsh words to say. Whenever I see people so-called preaching in the streets, I don’t see people being drawn to the preacher. At best people might walk pass and feel sorry for the good-intentioned soul and at worse they might think he is a lunatic and make fun of him.
What was Jesus’ authority?
It was not knowledge because the pharisees and scribes had knowledge as well. It was not credentials because Jesus had none. The only difference between Jesus and the spiritual leaders of his time was that Jesus had compassion. The gospel records in numerous accounts when Jesus was moved with compassion. Compassion and love are inseparable. It is different from feeling pity or sorry. Feeling sorry for someone does not move us into action. In fact, it is quite condescending. No one wants people to feel sorry for them. Compassion is different. It moves our soul. It makes us try to understand. It makes us walk with those who suffer and walk alone.
Our message of repentance must flow out of genuine compassion. Most of the homeless children and adults are in the streets for variety of reasons. They are not responsible for many things that led them to the streets but they still need to repent. The meaning of repentance is a change of lifestyle. Our friends who are homeless have to recognize that they have made the choice to use drugs, steal and reject their families and friends. They chose a destructive lifestyle even though they might not have had many choices. It is important for them to know that they made a choice to be in the streets because it helps them gain control of their lives. Recognizing that they had a choice gives them back their humanity. When we neglect to preach a message of repentance to these littles ones, then we continue to dehumanize them. We continue to subject them to the lie that they are helpless victims. Repentance presents a choice to them. It gives a choice to be free from the lies and shackles that dehumanize them. It is the first step towards regaining their humanity.
Repentance is universal. It does not matter who we are, we can be a homeless person or a CEO of prosperous company. Repentance is applicable to everyone. It demands that we ask ourselves whether our life choices are bringing about the person that God intended us to be. Are we reflecting the image of God in our lives in all areas?
Most of the homeless people have forgotten that they can make choices. We are here to remind that they are humans and that they can make choices. However, only Love can give them the courage to make the choice for repentance. We cannot preach the gospel effectively to the homeless, the prisoners, the orphans and the widows if we do not love them. It is love that is going to help them hear the message of repentance. It is love that is going to give them the strength to repent. There cannot be true healing in the lives of these people without repentance and they cannot hear the message of repentance if it is not preached with compassion and love.