I imagine that everyone has seen the drama unfolding in Greece at the moment regarding their economy. Leading Australian newspapers ran with headlines such as “Greece is not the word” and “Greece Lightning” in rather obvious allusions to the movie Greece. I am not in any way qualified to comment on economics but something I saw on television this morning reminded me of the importance of the Gospel. They were interviewing people lining up at Greek ATMs when one lady in the queue voiced the popular opinion that it was the EU that was all to blame for expecting payment. There was no consideration from this lady that it was the government that had borrowed money and presumably it had been spent on the Greek people. I remember hearing some similar things about banks during the Global Financial Crises. The EU and the banks may not be devoid of blame but people have the tendency to look to blame others rather than acknowledge responsibility themselves.
How does the woman’s words on the tragedy unfolding in Greece relate to the message of the Gospel? In a very real sense the opinion of the woman in this case is the complete opposite of the gospel message. It is easy to want to blame someone else. How often do we make excuses for the way we act? Who hasn’t said ‘the devil made me do it’ when they were young? Deep in our hearts we want to see ourselves as being innocent victims. Sometimes this may be true, sometimes not. Either way one thing we are loathe to do is to accept our own responsibility in things.
I experienced this yesterday while driving. At a roundabout, I was cut off by a car exiting without indicating from the wrong lane. Even though there wasn’t a collision, I was initially annoyed by his driving, after all, he was doing the wrong thing. I wasn’t doing the wrong thing. It would have been all his fault. After a little while though I realised if we had of crashed I was also to blame. I was prepared to act on the assumption that I knew what the other driver was doing.
This trivial example gives me insight into the gospel message. Paul writes that all are sinners and fall short of God’s requirements. It may be easier to blame others when we don’t meet God’s standard but the true message of the Gospel requires people to accept responsibility for their own actions. This is what repentance is all about. Jesus’ message was all about repentance, but it is simply impossible to repent if you do not think you need to. Thus, repentance is intrinsically linked to responsibility.
The second aspect of repentance in the Gospel is equally vital in the Christian life. Repentance requires change. It involves ceasing to do what has led up to the act of repentance. The problem that we all have is that we cannot simply decide that from now on we will live according to the way God wants. Try as we might, we cannot do it. It is beyond our ability. This would be bad news if it weren’t for Jesus. The part of Christian repentance that involves turning requires us to turn to Jesus. It is only through him that we can live by God’s standards. Again this is not by our efforts, but Jesus living in us.
Economies are important but some things are more important. When it comes to your relationship with God, don’t be like the Greek woman – always looking for someone to blame, but look toward repentance in Jesus.