John said 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? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Luke 3: 7-8
“You Brood of Vipers!” This has got to be one of the top ten insults in the bible. In Matthew, Jesus levels this insult at the religious leaders. Here, however, John the Baptist tosses it out there generally for anyone who might be listening. And them calls them to live a life that reflects repentance. After offering this kind of wrathful insult and warning them of the impending doom, the crowds are duly concerned for their lives and ask, “What should we do?” Now, you might think that the formula that John will offer will be complicated, requiring years of effort and practice and that the repentance must be whole-hearted abandonment of your life as it is. But the advice John gives is some of the most straightforward practices one could take up.
If you have two coats, share one with another. If you are a tax collector, charge no more than allotted. If you are a soldier, don’t extort money from people. John asks no one to stop being a soldier, tax collector, or even give up all their riches. Simply put, he asks his followers, who accept a baptism of repentance, to be kind, fair, and generous. The move from a brood of vipers to a righteous people is even the slightest step toward becoming a caring and loving community.
We wrapped up and took two huge carloads of Gifts from the Angel Tree this week to assist five different local families in need. Five families, whose Christmas may have been bleak, have benefited from your generosity. And while a small gesture, but, as some might say, “It ain’t nothin’.” This is our version of where we might have two coats; we should share one.
The practice for Thursday invites us to bless, and the practice for Friday asks us to turn, to repent. I think you might begin to see that the practices in the Way of Love all interrelate. The practice of repentance has brought about blessing, that is, the fruit worthy of repentance.