The urgency and patience of Jesus' love

"Repent or die" -- would Jesus really talk like that?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Let's ask two of the most liked Jesuses of our pop culture: Bro-Jesus and Yogi-Jesus.


Us: "Bro-Jesus, would you ever say 'repent or die' to us?"
Bro-Jesus: "Bro, of course not! I'm on your side. I got your back. I would never threaten you. Come on, bro. Relax."


Us: "Yogi-Jesus, would you ever say 'repent or die' to us?"
Yogi-Jesus: "My child, I came to bring you love and peace. How could a chainsaw nurture a butterfly? Let us return to thoughts of compassion."

And then there's the Jesus of the New Testament, or Real-Jesus. He's a lot less popular in our pop culture than the counterfeit Jesuses. In the first paragraph of Luke 13, Real-Jesus tells people that although some Jews in the land had died tragic deaths, that didn't make them worse sinners than the Jews living in Jerusalem where those things hadn't happened. Then he closes his comments like this:
"But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (v 5)
There it is: "Repent or die." By 'repent' Real-Jesus meant to surrender one's life to him and conform to his way of life. Real-Jesus demands that of us -- and he never apologizes for it. He speaks with the heated urgency of love. Real-Jesus is raw and real, sometimes so much so that it makes his followers cringe.

But there's another side of the story.

Real-Jesus is also compassionate and patient. Next in Luke 13, Jesus paints a word-picture:
“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 
[In other words, repentance hasn't come, so...] 
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (vv. 6-9)
In this story, Jesus represents the caretaker of the vineyard. He stands for clemency. For patience. For mercy. "Let's give things a little more time. I'll do some more work with this one. Let's see what happens."

So on one hand, Real-Jesus says, "Repent or die." On the other, he says, "I will work with you patiently."

Someone said to me yesterday that the wondrous thing about Jesus is that he could perfectly balance truth and grace (cf. John 1). We see him do it here in Luke 13. He starts with "repent or die" and then adds "I will work with you patiently." Which of those two sides do you need to hear from Real-Jesus today? Which do you need to convey to someone you know? What might it mean today to take Jesus seriously?

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