And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke 3:3
Many are coming to be baptized by John – the one prophesied about crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord.
“What then shall we do?” the multitudes ask John the Baptist. The ordinary. Poor. Oppressed. The same question comes from the wealthy…the ones who got that way often via extortion. And the soldiers -- the strong and powerful; the bullies and oppressors -- also chime in, asking the same. Newly baptized and repentant, they all ask, “what now?”
Repentance puts us all on the same playing field. Three vastly different backgrounds and social statuses, one unifying question upon repentance: what then shall we do? The responses differ for the different groups, but they all relate to possessions. How we covet our possessions and possessions of others; how we use our power; how we use our influence; how we treat those around us and the less fortunate.
To the poor among the crowds: if you have an extra tunic, share it with one who has none. Likewise, if you have food. What little you have, share even that. To the wealthy tax collectors: collect no more than is authorized. Don’t cheat. Deal fairly in business. To the soldiers: don’t extort money by threats and false accusations; be content with what you have. Use your power wisely.
Real repentance – real faith – leads to action. Loving our neighbor where we are with what we have. Treating people fairly. Contentment over coveting. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” John tells the newly baptized.
What then shall we do? The specific answer will differ for all of us, but will also likely relate to how we use our possessions, power, and influence, and how we pursue loving God and loving our neighbor.
Questions: What then shall we do? In the places you hang out, your circles of influence, and opportunities that present themselves…how do you think God is asking you to respond?