Last week we looked at one of the common myths we tend to believe: “I am in control.” And of course, the way to answer or repent from that myth is to surrender. Today we’re jumping off from that point as we look at another step in the process of living a life of repentance: RELEASE. Repentance is best understood as a change of disposition, particularly toward God. When our disposition is to fight God, or perhaps flee from God, we’re beckoned to change that disposition and return to God, who is ready to celebrate our return.
One man who was with Jesus, both in person and disposition, was Peter. Jesus even tells Peter, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18). Can you imagine how that would make Peter feel? So affirmed, right? But in the very next passage, as Jesus explains his perplexing death and even more surprising resurrection, Peter can’t conceive of it. Unable to release his own perception of God’s Kingdom, Peter refuses to believe it and Jesus rebukes him with one of the most memorably stunning lines in scripture: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” (Mt. 16:23).
From cornerstone to stumbling block. Not just a play on words, but all too true of any follower of Jesus sometimes. While Jesus calls us to enact God’s Kingdom, we are often in the way. Why? For the same reason as Peter — we can’t release our control.
It’s not that Peter’s objection to God’s plan for Jesus was unreasonable. We could imagine how ready Peter and the rest of his people were to have the oppressive Roman empire dealt with once and for all. Surely they were ready for that David-like king to usher in a new era of independence and peace. But God’s sights were set much higher — rather than defeating Rome, God would set us free from sin. Rather than worldly blessing, God would usher in eternal life. But no servant is greater than his or her master, so we find ourselves perplexed by God’s plan for victory when we can’t release our worldly measures of victory.
And so we’re called to repent. In this case, to repent of our need to control. If we can’t release ultimate control to God, then our religious exercises become caricatures. We cannot accept God’s gifts when our fists are grasping the controls. To receive what God is doing, we have to release.
1) We are meant to be wise with the lives God gave us, so what kind of “control” do you think we have to release to God?
2) Can you think of examples from history or current events when people’s need to be in control has been destructive or painful?
3) Can you think of examples from history or current events when religious people’s need to be in control has been destructive or painful?
4) When we let God control what we cannot, what might be the result? In what way might the world become better?