There used to be a man that would preach on the quad at ISU. “Fornicators!” he would shout at the top of his lungs to draw attention, “Repent!” He would cry out. Occasionally, a small crowd would gather to listen more carefully but quickly turned away, snickering and mocking the idiot standing on the box.
I don’t imagine this being much different from John the Baptist. Here was a man dressed in camel hair and a leather belt. This strange man was issuing a warning, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2 (ESV). Still, people came to listen. But, they did not just listen, “They were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Clearly, they were not concerned about his appearance or repulsed by his tough message. They didn’t snicker, and they didn’t come up with ways to tear him down. Instead, their hearts burned within them, and their burning hearts cried out for mercy.
At that moment, it was evident that the only path to mercy was repentance. This is the cry of John the Baptist’s heart. Not because he wanted followers but because he knew God. People followed him; people listened to him because he looked like Jesus. He looked like Jesus because that is who he spent time with.
Two other scriptures come to mind when I think about this. The first is in Exodus 34:29-35. Moses had been with God on Mount Sinai. When he came down, “Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.” (Exodus 34:30). The second is after Jesus’ crucifixion on the road to Emmaus. Two men were walking along talking when a strange man joined their conversation. Upon his departure, they knew something was different. They remarked, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)
I am sure that the preacher on ISU’s campus had great intentions. So do I. As I consider the effort I put into becoming a better leader, speaker, father, husband, and friend, it is clear that I am missing the mark. The only way to become who I am created to be is to spend my time with my Creator.