ala. Matthew 3:1-6
Everyone can agree that some things have to change. What we don’t agree on is how or even what needs to change.
There is a tension in our world right now, a tinge that change is necessary. And this tension gets expressed in debates that become all out wars of words, persons resolved on either side that their idea of change is the best.
One example of many is the fact that everyone agrees that our young people should have the right to go to school without the fear of an active shooter. And yet there is wide disagreement as to how to change that reality — e.g. stricter background checks, assault rifle ban, increased security, etc.
In the days when John came to preach and baptize in the wilderness everyone was desperate for change. Such is reflected in the way that people from both the country and city sought him out. The majority were among the slave and working classes who suffered much under Roman oppression, with the complicity of the religious elite.
They were those crushed by tax burdens and the forced censi by which those taxes were assessed. Those forced to the margins according to both political and religious laws. Those so oppressed and harassed by the forces of the world that they were drawn by John’s message of a higher kingdom and the dawn of the age of God’s redemption.
John’s message was to repent because the kingdom of heaven had come near — to change because God’s sovereign rule of heaven was about to be established amid and against the tyranny of earth. And it is intentional that John links the coming of that kingdom with prophets like Isaiah because the Kingdom of God would be distinct from the kingdoms of “men” in its bent towards justice, peace, and love for all people.
In order to understand the Kingdom one has to understand the hope of the prophets: a nation / world where those on the margins were cared for, the stranger welcomed, and justice served for all in accordance with the will of God. Where the proud and powerful were held accountable for their dealings and leaders chided for their neglect of all those under their care. Where swords were beaten into ploughshares and everyone sat under their own vine. Where people loved neighbors as much as (or more than) they loved themselves. And where God was loved and served in all ways and by all means.
In sum, the change that we should hope to both see and participate in should be that, which is still according to God’s sovereign rule in line with such prophetic hope. And every conversation as to how change should happen should be tempered by the simple maxim offered by the prophet Micah: is it just, loving and kind, and in humble submission to God’s will and not our own?