Shock Value

Dave Gifford

READ : Matthew 3:1-12

The word “repentance” used to conjure up an image in my mind of deranged men shocking passersby on city streets yelling, “Repent! The end of the world is near!” Hollywood’s portrayals of an uncongenial John the Baptist reaffirmed this fanatic image.

Repentance seemed to me to be the negative side of salvation, charged with fear and threats. It focused on all the things we supposedly need to give up to become Christians. It seemed that although eternal life was a free gift, there were entry requirements written in fine print that must be met first. Those requirements varied with each person I questioned.

I now see more clearly that faith and repentance are simply two parts of one whole, a decision both to face reality from God’s perspective (faith) and to live accordingly (repentance). The call to repentance is a call to line up our lives with what we believe. It is not a call to fear but to consistency. It shocks us into seeing how shockingly inconsistent our lives are. John the Baptist would have put it this way: “You say you believe God is king. Well, live like it!” Repentance calls us to regularly think through our beliefs so we can see the implications for our lives. Have you been shocked today?


Lord, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven both in practice as it is in theory. Amen.