“…the kindness of God leads you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)
Last week, the staff at a local church had a profound few days of confession and repentance. They identified six sins among themselves, and perhaps within the congregation: pride, idolatry, jealousy, denial, deception, and a complaining spirit. The senior pastor has called the church to collective repentance. For years, these sins have festered within the leadership and among the people. Nobody has confronted them, and they have been like a perforated appendix in the body; slowly poisoning everything.
Yesterday morning my wife, Kim, read Joel 2:12-17 to me. What powerful words! They called Israel to “return (repent) to the Lord with all your heart.” The prophet called for fasting and mourning among all the people, and for the leaders to weep “before the porch and the altar” of the Temple. Perhaps then the Lord would spare the people and the “inheritance.” Perhaps then the Lord will have pity and protect them.
What has happened to us? When did we become so blind to our own waywardness? How did we become so consumed with selfish ambition? Why have we allowed a competitive spirit to form within and between churches? What made us so complacent about our sin?
Romans 1-3 paints a progressive picture of the sinfulness of humanity; all humanity. Some people openly embrace depravity and degradation (1:21-32). Others do good things, yet remain blind to their spiritual need (2:1-16). And some folk practice religious rites and rituals (2:17-29) hoping this absolves their sin. It doesn’t. We are all in the same deep, dark hole together. The homosexual, the murderer, the greedy, and the arrogant all fall short together (Romans 1:26-30).
Then this short statement pops up in Romans 2:4.
It’s not the anger of God, or the threat of judgment that leads us to repentance. It’s the kindness of God. His kindness confronts our sin. His kindness calls us to change. His kindness cannot blindly ignore our brokenness. His kindness says “No more!”
Only when we see sin as the cancer of our souls will we respond to it aggressively. As long as we justify it, minimize it, or grow comfortable with it, it slowly poisons us and those around us.
Lent provides 40 days for us to look within, look up, look out, and say “No more!” And as we respond to this kindness of God–the gracious, convicting work of His Spirit within us–we might find that He spares our marriages, our families, our friendships, and our churches.