The Repentance Game

A long time ago in a Bible Study far far away, my youth pastor was always teaching on repentance. We were in the Book of Matthew…interesting that as I’m a little older than he was then and I am now “obsessed” with Matthew.

Anyway, we finally confronted him about his deficiency.  How could every passage in Matthew (and for that matter every passage that we spilled into in relation to our Matthewean studies) be about repentance?

I don’t remember his response. It would probably have been long and winding and seemingly tangential to the subject at hand, but effective as i am hereut here remembering and admiring that time from twenty years later.

I think I finally understand whatever he was trying to say that I don’t remember.

After years of studying Torah and adjusting my understanding of Yeshua to match, I’ve “concluded” (read: a temporary burst of arrogance substantiated by long term memory loss) that the gospel isn’t what is taught in the mainstream. Specifically, it’s not primarily about forgiveness, and more relevantly, the benefits are not based on faith in a tenet.

It is based on grace through faith, but faith that produces no works is no faith at all. So, when I look at statements from Yeshua, I now see with fresh eyes where he says not everyone that calls Lord, Lord, will be saved but he that DOES the will of the father. Who is his brother and sister? Him that DOES THE will of the father. Why do call him Master, and don’t DO what he says?

So, remembering his words I’m studying Torah and finding all these nuances and teachings within seemingly basic commands, and realizing that day by day my life isn’t as it should be. Studying Torah is telling me, I’m not doing the Father’s will.

What should I do?

Probably the first thing Yeshua taught: repent. So I study and find myself continually lacking, so really every passage is about repentance.

But I can see how this can look tiring. I can remember instances, even recent, where it came across my mind: what? Another thing I have to change? Can’t I ever measure up?

The obvious answer is REPENTANCE! But that sounds like throwing a brick to a struggling swimmer. What is repentance?

Some say it’s a change of mind or heart. If that were correct, then you could repent of driving into a wall by turning off a cliff. In the story of the prodigal son, the prodigal does not repent and go into another far off country, and he certainly doesn’t repent “in his heart” and stay where he is. He goes back to the Father’s house.

To study Torah then, always with the will to obey, is about going home to where the Father can love on you, and where you can be honored as a son. Torah is the land marks that help find the path. Finding repentance is a gift.

Thus, haven’t I repented enough is like the son being within sight of the Father and asking aren’t I close enough? The penitent, the one going home, is never satisfied until he is home.

But what do we do when we get that way? When we just can’t stomach another change that makes us look like a weirdo to our Christian friends and makes it seem more difficult to interact with the world?

The same youth pastor also had a saying, “Stop playing the game!” But I’m going to take him out of context and then disagree.

Imagine playing a game. I alternate between imaging Donkey Kong Country, Zelda, and Mario 64 (imagine because of course, I have no time to play). I suppose you could imagine a board game. Just not Monopoly. But every game is filled with weird rules. Why does Mario have to bounce on the head of all his enemies? On top of that, you have side games and other hassles. Why do I have to waste Link’s time fishing, just so I can help that one character I don’t care about, so they can give me one clue that will send me to a far off land so that I can fight the big bad guy so that I can finally go and fight the bigger bladder guy?

If you think about it, most games spend most of the time having you learn how the game works, so that you can spend a very little time mastering the game and actually saving the Princess.

But do we see the game as flawed because of these missions and detours? Do we say, “Ugh, why is this world so big and complicated? Can’t the game just reward me for turning it on?”

If we saw life that way. Elohim’s path that way, then one more change isn’t a problem, it’s just part of the game that brings me ever closer to my goal. In fact, it’s not motivated by guilt. When Link goes to save Zelda, it’s not because he us I  danger, but because she’s worth saving…

That’s really telling because the games never let you hang out with the Princess for long. How do you know she’s worth saving? We presume she is, but you don’t really play the game because of how good she is, but for the game itself!

And for reasons we don’t understand our goal has to take us through the mud, and the blood, the briar and the raging volcano with the giant dragon whose head you have to jump on. And if you really stop and think about it, you don’t want it easy!

Even the grace is everything crowd wants to do something. They want to spread the gospel or sing or be really really nice. In all cases everyone seeking the Father chooses to change their life for the more difficult, not the easier.

So, yes, every passage is about repentance. Repentance is a perpetual mission. It’s hard, but so is beating Mega Man 1…and don’t even get me started on Batman from the 80s NES… It being difficult is not a flaw, it’s a perk.  And it’s not coming from a place of guilt, it’s coming out because you were meant to play.

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