At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” (Luke 13:1-5)

We’ve heard from Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin now, and both camps promise big changes.

Forgive me for being skeptical. Objects at rest, like Washington, the Church or any other institution, tend to become calcified, existing to ensure their own survival in their current form. They are open only to the wishes of an elite few, whether lobbyists pushing the agendas of pharmaceutical or oil companies; greedy investors who care nothing for the consequences of their avarice for those who struggle to buy a tank of gas or pay for medicine; or frightened leaders who cannot imagine that someone other than the usual suspects could actually have something important and valuable to contribute to the common good.

Real change is not within human ability. It only comes as the gift of the Spirit of God. The Bible calls it repentance, metanoia, a complete turnaround of mind and heart that restructures the very essence of our beings.

One reason we are so reluctant to repent and unable to do so is our refusal to deal with our own faults. Like the unnamed people addressed in the text I shared above, we would rather point fingers and discuss the finer points of the foibles of others than confront our own behavior. The supposition in the first century was that those slain by the Roman soldiers or killed in a construction accident did something to deserve their fate. They were “worse sinners” than other people. Jesus nailed the fallacy in such thinking, in essence saying that we don’t need to wonder about what others do or did wrong. Instead, we have to ask about our own need to repent and our own chances for survival if we don’t change.

Inertia is a powerful force. But the Spirit that could order chaos and bring conception in a virgin’s womb isn’t stymied by the “laws” of physics. Or the recalcitrance of the human heart.

© 2008 Tom Cheatham

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