Luke 3:7-9 ESV

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

In reading Luke’s passage describing the actions of John the Baptist, I focus on verse 8 and the exhortation that fruits of the spirit come from true repentance and change of our inner selves.

John the Baptist’s ministry was to bring the people from their sins through repentance, and prepare them to meet Jesus. The outward sign he used was washing with water. The fruits borne from repentance signify that inward cleansing and renewal of heart have taken place.

The Gospel of Jesus calls us to show mercy always and forgive others unceasingly. The Gospel also exhorts us to do all the good we can and to be just to all. This same principle to be good and just leads us to forego unjust gains and to seek restoration that which is gained by wrong doing.

But how can we apply this passage to our own lives? I think that is within each and every one of us to determine on our own through an honest conversation with God.

One action that has helped me immensely started in 1993 when we joined the UMC in Bellbrook just south of Dayton, OH. The men’s group that I belonged to went on a retreat where we studied the 15th Psalm. We asked each other on a scale of 1 (low) -10 (high) where we were in relation to each of the five verses; at the lowest point in our life, where we wanted to be, and where we were right at that moment. Turns out no one in the group of 25 rated themselves below a seven at that moment in time. A realization occurred that maybe … just maybe; we were not being inclusive to reach those different than us. Within months, an outreach to marginalized people started and I got to test how I would react as my Sunday school class doubled in size and all the new members were those children of God who were “different” than the rest of us. Many in the class were uncomfortable until it came on me suddenly to let them know that my first thought whenever I saw any member of my class was to inwardly say, “God Bless You.” This simple action changed me and I do it to this day.

Prayer: Gracious God, today and all day, help me remember your love and openness to all individuals. May I walk the walk of your Son and learn to embrace all who are different from me. Remind me to say, “God Bless You” to all I meet this day. Amen.

Dave Ryan

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