THE TABLE JESUS IS SITTING AT
Repentance is simply being honest about your life and beginning to take responsibility for it. God cannot do much with us until we decide to be honest.
Who does not like to be honored? Even if modesty keeps us from saying so, we all like to be honored. In fact, we need to be honored. To be psychologically and emotionally healthy we need a measure of positive recognition and respect from other people. It is natural, then, to want to be honored. Shakespeare wrote, "If it is a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul."
It becomes a problem when we forget that honor is something that must be conferred. You cannot claim honor for yourself; it must be given or acknowledged by someone else. Jesus offers some wisdom on this subject and on the danger of taking the seat of honor prematurely. He went to eat in the home of a leading Pharisee, and He watched as the guests sought out the prominent places. He said, in essence, "When you go to a wedding banquet, don't make the mistake of saying, 'Look, there are some empty seats at the head table. Let's go sit in them.'" There are few things more embarrassing than to be found sitting in a seat that belongs to someone else.
During Jesus' time, there were well-defined, carefully maintained hierarchies of power and prestige, like monarchies and rulers - something like a social chain of command. People had designated places and each one knew his spot. But Jesus concluded His advice with these words, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk 14:11). Later, Jesus would display His teaching for the disciples in a dramatic way. On the night of His betrayal He would leave His central place at the Passover meal and move around the table, from one to the other, washing His disciples' feet.
All this has little to do with table manners, of course. Jesus is offering a principle of life. He is speaking of how life works. Expressed negatively, it means this: Life won't work - that is, will not be what it was created to be - with one's self at the center of everything. Maybe this is what is wrong in our world. People are trying to conduct the business of living in a way that doesn't work.
We are Christians and we claim to follow Jesus. If we are honest, however, we have to admit that most of the time we're taking the same road through life as everybody else. Our chief goals, like our neighbors', are success and security. The problem isn't that these are bad or unimportant. The problem arises when these become our primary goals and life is all about "me."
Success and security can become such priorities that life ends up revolving around me and my own self-interest. Life, as the Creator intended it to be, won't work that way. When we are at the center of the universe, even God will have to orbit around us! Sometimes, weather we realize it or not, this is precisely what we expect God to do. Oftentimes, we have great difficulty seeing how self-centered we are so it would hardly occur to us that this is what keeps us from experiencing the joy we seek. We keep looking for happiness from our positions on the thrones of our lives. We assume the place of honor, then, wonder why life is so unfulfilling.
Repentance is necessary. When we are called to repent, our first reaction might be defensiveness. It's like being asked to admit you are a bad person whether you believe it or not. That isn't the point at all. The point is honesty. Repentance is simply being honest about your life and beginning to take responsibility for it. God cannot do much with us until we decide to be honest. Don't you sometimes feel the world is dying for want of honesty? Yet, because we are either stubborn or afraid, or both, we seem determined to defend ourselves against the truth about ourselves. We will try to justify ourselves to our dying breath. Being honest would mean facing realities we've spent years avoiding.
You can't have a quality relationship, or true intimacy, without honesty. The risk of being honest is love's absolute prerequisite. This is why Jesus calls us to, "Repent." The essence of sin is the infantile self-centeredness we've been talking about. Sin isn't primarily the things we do. It is the inward condition that is manifested in the things we do. Sin is putting ourselves in the places of honor and insisting that we deserve to be there. When we have seen the truth and repented of it, however, something incredible happens. We are invited to a table where all the seats are places of honor!
The table Jesus is sitting at...