Monday: A Gospel of Repentance
A few years ago the word “paradigm” came to popular usage. Especially among motivational speakers who were urging us to make positive change in our lives. For a fee, they would be willing to tell us how to experience a “paradigm shift”. Paradigm is a noun meaning a worldview underlying the theories and methodologies of a certain subject, or a model of such. Two things about the word strike me. First, “worldview”, a word made popular several years ago by Chuck Colson, and then, “model”.
Believe it or not, we all have a worldview, though they vary significantly. For most of us, our worldview came from a model; a parent, or perhaps even two, a teacher, or another adult influence outside the home. For many today, sadly, their model is some TV show or motion picture character played by a favorite actor. God help you if your worldview has come from the influence of fashion and pop-culture, but whatever the model was, or is, it has become your own paradigm, your worldview.
I know this because I know how powerfully young children model the behaviors they see and study around them. Boys tend to model their fathers and girls tend to model their mothers. Children want to be just like the people they are modeling, until they reach their teenage years. Then, in the natural rebellion that occurs as a young adult seeks independence, they begin searching for a new model. There are plenty out there to choose from, mostly bad. In the end, well into middle age, we begin to realize that in spite of our rebellious nature, we have become very much like the model of our childhood, mother, father, or whoever it was that was our paradigm and, now, we have become someone else’s paradigm.
This process tends to establish and protect the status-quo. Society and its culture are essentially stagnant. At best, change comes slowly to most of us. There is always the disruption of youth, fashion and pop-culture, (which is idolatry); and there are always free radicals on the fringes making society nervous. Sometimes outside influences can cause a shift that stresses the fringe radicals into violent action, but, for the most part, societies are stagnant. Governments, whether they are democratic or despotic, tend to work hard to control radicals and maintain the status quo. But change requires radical thought and behavior, which most often is defined by violence. History has shown that when the violence ends and the society settles back to order, back to stagnation, the result is most often worse than before.
But what if you could institute radical change in a society without initiating violence? What if, in the end result you could make things better without killing off your enemies? That would be really radical, but not new. In fact it is exactly what happened more than two thousand years ago when a man called John the Baptist came out of the wilderness into the environs of Jerusalem to challenge the people to change their paradigm.
“For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”
“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
John’s appearance on the scene was not an accident, the freak result of a social shift that stressed the radical fringe, though the fringe was stressed for sure. It was a matter of perfect timing, a planned intervention by a power outside of human culture and society. It was timed to precede the introduction of a new and radical paradigm for change that would ultimately lead to something better than before. John was sent to introduce the source of the “Good News”, the gospel of repentance.