August 10, 1993
In bold, block letters, graffiti on a wall near the University of Alberta says, “Sinners repent.” Underneath, someone scrawled, “Get a life. . . .”
Positive people are all for enjoying themselves, life, and other people. Their emphasis is making the best of everything, looking for roses not thorns. They are quick to put problems aside and quick to smile. If someone worries too much, or grumbles, or focuses on life’s downside, they might even say, “get a life.”
In contrast, negative people are ultra-cautious. They see doom or danger lurking in every corner and some lose their ability to enjoy any part of life. They consider themselves failures, life is a pain, and anyone who enjoys themselves is either silly or ignorant.
In fact, some people think having any kind of fun is evil. They pronounce doom on sports and entertainment, even on anyone who smiles. Pleasure makes people feel good so it must be bad, as are the people who enjoy it. The person who wrote “Sinners - repent” could have been one of those — but maybe not.
The second message indicates its author thinks repentance is negative and will ruin life here-and-now. Perhaps he or she thinks repentance is feeling bad and moping around with a heavy load of guilt about any pleasurable behavior. Perhaps this person thinks repentance is irrelevant altogether and has nothing to do with real living. Besides, psychologists have decided guilt is unhealthy, so forget it.
Repentance aside, irresponsible people often ask why bother giving up anything they really want, which is what repentance implies. After all, personal choice based on personal desires makes life filled with pleasure, doesn’t it? And is not misery caused by whatever gets in the way of this pursuit to “get a life?”
Could be, but John the Baptist called for repentance and the first recorded word Jesus preached was “Repent . . . .” God sent them to make that call. Is it fair to accuse God of being a kill-joy without first considering what He means by repentance?
Biblically, repentance is simply turning from sin to God. Sin is whatever rejects God or goes against His holy, righteous nature. Repentance is turning from that and welcoming Him and all that He is into our lives. It is both choosing a way of life and having His life, for that is what He promises to all who repent and trust Him.
The problem we have with God’s perspective of repentance is we don’t see sin as He does. Sin is fun. Otherwise, no one would do it. That doesn’t mean the fun lasts, but when temporary pleasure is weighed against the chances of getting caught or regretting what we do, temporary pleasure too easily wins.
Yet God, given His nature, could hardly command people to repent so they would miss out on some fun. He says too much about being joyful and giving joy, about loving us and wanting the best for us. Rather, He knows sin damages our potential in this life and brings eternal separation from Him for the next. “The wages of sin is death . . . .”
Perhaps the second graffiti artist really wasn’t interested in escaping death or a new dimension of fun or life. Sadly, whatever their thoughts, they missed the point: according to the Author of Life, getting life, not just a life or any life, means doing just what the first scribbled note says.