“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. … Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. … Don’t collect any more than you are required to. … Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Luke 3:8, 11, 13, 14 NIV).
Repentance is usually seen as something between God and us. We sin and disobey; we come to Him in repentance. John the Baptist led a spiritual revival calling the people to repent and return to God. For him, repentance had to bear the fruits of repentance as evidence that the people’s repentance was genuine.
While John called the people to return to God—“Prepare the way of the Lord”—when they inquired what they should do to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” he gave them rather practical actions. Perhaps even more significant than their practicality is that the actions John advised all pertained to how they related with others instead of God: Give clothes and food to those who are without, don’t extort, don’t rob.
As Christians, we often compartmentalize our spirituality from our daily life. When I’m spiritual, that pertains to my relationship with God. How I behave as I go through my day, well, that’s just life. Yet the biblical view does not accept such segregation. The way to God is through others. In other words, the true evidence of my spirituality and relationship with God is manifested in how I treat others, including practical issues like caring for the poor and hungry and conducting business relationships and interactions.
John not only called the people to repent, preparing the way of the Lord; he also instructed them to bear the fruits of repentance. And what were those? How they treated one another. How they cared for the poor and hungry. How they behaved in business dealings with each other.
Too often we broadcast our love for God, even seeing ourselves as His defenders within our current age, yet our treatment of those around us, those we encounter in our daily lives, does not bear the fruit of the relationship we claim. John expected those who embraced his movement to show in their treatment of others the fruit born from their repentance.
Father, as we turn to You today, may we bear the fruit of our repentance in our daily lives and relationships, with family, friends, and strangers. Amen.