“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?
Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:7, 8)
“So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.” (Luke 3:18)
A number of years ago, during a painfully trying time of life, the phrase came to me, “the ragged edge of grace.” An image came along with those words: a painful cutting open of a wound, followed by the flow of a healing ointment. There are many times that the experience of restoring grace is preceded by the experience of ragged grace.
I think this is how John the Baptist’s cutting words can be described as “good news” by Luke. Restoring grace was on its way – the coming King and Kingdom – but in order for the people to be ready to receive it, their hearts had to be rent open with truth. Their lives were so out of alignment with the Messiah’s coming that they were perilously close to being cut out of the Kingdom rather than participating in it.
The good news was that it was not too late; there was the opportunity for realignment. “Repentance” is the biblical word for that realignment. Stop going one direction, turn 180 degrees, and go the opposite direction. Then they’ll be ready to receive what’s coming, “the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6) embodied in the person of Jesus. For that to happen, however, they needed first to hear painfully clear words of the need to turn – and God in his grace spoke those words through his prophet John, the forerunner to Jesus. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The invitation this third week of Advent is to “Repentant Living.” What parts of your life are out of alignment with God’s desires for you and those around you? Is there a path you’re walking that is leading toward greater disorder? Is there a painful word or experience that might be the ragged edge of grace opening your heart?
Stop. Turn around. Move in the opposite direction…and you’ll find King Jesus already moving toward you. You don’t have to wait to receive his grace.
Your Pastor in Christ
P.S. Be sure to listen to the simple, clear, wise words from Melissa about “Prepared Living” in the most recent video of our “Living Advent” series!