Here at Newberry, various members of the campus community are invited to contribute to devotional series during Advent and Lent. The format is simple: There is a passage from Scripture, a consideration of the text, and a brief prayer. I contributed the entries for today and tomorrow. Here’s the one for today.
Joel 2:12-13 King James Version (KJV)
12 Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
One of our era’s catchphrases is “Perception is reality.” If we act a certain way, if we can be perceived a certain way, the theory goes, the world will assume us to be what we portray. It’s a sort of method acting of the soul, a fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to the world. Why bother actually being kind, or gentle, or noble, or wise, when you can reap the social benefits with the mere appearance of those virtues? Kindness, nobility, and wisdom are hard, and often hard earned. But we know how to pretend almost as soon as we are born.
But that approach relies on an audience that suspends disbelief, either intentionally (as when we see a movie or a play) or because we have fooled them. And that becomes a problem when the audience is not – cannot be – fooled.
That brings us to today’s passage from the prophet Joel. Joel is speaking to us on behalf of One Who cannot be fooled. While our outer appearance may seem attractive, even admirable, God sees and knows the actor playing the role. Because of that, God is the toughest possible audience. He demands not merely performance, but commitment to the role.
But wonderfully enough, God is also the kindest, most forgiving audience, forgiving enough to come to us and suffer the pains that we have earned by our sins. He doesn’t want us tearing our clothes in flashy, artificial grief – hamming it up like that won’t impress him. But if we stop acting like people of God and instead become people of God, He will be satisfied, and our reality will surpass any mere play of shadows on a stage.
Heavenly father, thank You for Your call to us, for Your refusal to accept falsehood and sham. Thank You for coming to us and showing not how to act, but how to live, even at the cost of death. We pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.