By Robert Finley
John 4: 1-26
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” Jesus, speaking to a certain Samaritan woman, beside a well. (MSG)
I think a lot about repentance. I probably talk a lot about it, too. Probably too much. I certainly pray about it a lot. Pray for it to happen, soon. Pray for it to come and stay, to be done, really and truly and finally.
This may not be true for you, but it is for me. My focus when I think about repentance is hazy because it is decoupled from worship. It’s a dark and painful duty that I must perform, and it somehow stands apart from everything else about my relationship with Christ.
Repentance, the way I see it so much of the time, is just about dealing with sin. Confessing it, and putting it away. Conquering it, and moving on. It’s mashed together with that old idea of “Victory!” that used to be, and maybe still is, repeated with such frequency and fervor by those radio preachers up in Jellico I used to listen to when I was nine on my bright red 1968 Plymouth Fury radio, the one that wasn’t supposed to be on in the very small hours of the morning, but almost always was anyway. “Victory!”, as in, “Halleluiah, brother! You are DONE with that! Battle’s over, war’s won!”
That may be what I thought they were saying up in Jellico, and it may be what I internalized, but it didn’t play out the same way in Samaria.
When I see and hear Jesus engaged with the woman in this story, I realize I need to turn my radio off and listen well, because if I do, I’ll learn that repentance is not disconnected, but is instead deeply integrated in the kind of worship which God seeks, even today.
When the woman is simply honest with Jesus, even though she doesn’t disclose everything about her peculiar situation, he encourages her. He invites her to become one who worships him, and to bring to that everything that she is in that moment, five husbands, today’s live-in, all of it.
I hear Jesus telling her that God is looking for people who will bring their whole beings, including the entire truth of who they are and what they do, into his presence to worship him. I hear him say that he seeks people who are in love with a unique person who invites them to be with him even though he knows absolutely everything about them: all the bad stuff they do, the crazy things they think, the baggage they carry that comes from deep and dark places, all of it.
I hear him saying that he already knows all that, so change your mind about hiding. Don’t do it anymore. Be fully present to your great and good maker, and worship him in spirit and in truth, and as you turn from yourself and towards him, you won’t be able to help changing.