PRINCIPLE: “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.”
I had enjoyed the first day and a half of the ‘Festival of Homiletics’ in Minneapolis. (For those wondering about ‘homiletics’, it means ‘pertaining to the nature of preaching. In other words I was at a preaching festivalJ It just sounds more impressive to use the big word!). I had returned to my motel – just across the street from the new football stadium of the Minnesota Gophers – to spend the evening reading and planning. But first, I needed to eat. On the key cards of the motel there was an ad for 10% off pizza at a local establishment. I had discovered the location was less than a block away so figured I could phone in an order and then pick it up. As I was preparing to make the call I noticed the pizza ad on a plastic stand on the bed stand next to my bed. On the backside was a menu and a note that the complete menu could be accessed through a web link. So I grabbed my computer and went to the site, selected what I wanted and ordered online. After the allotted time I walked to the pizza place up the street. I gave them my name only to hear that they had received no order. I explained it was an online order and gave them the confirmation number, 140. Still no record. The nice man was willing to make the pizza so he asked what I had ordered. The name of the particular pizza didn’t ring a bell with him. Even if it did, I didn’t want to reorder because my card had been charged for the previous order. But I could sit down and wait for him to bake one and I was hungry. While he went to check with his manager, I began to wonder if I was in the right place. By now I figured something wasn’t right. So when he returned and asked what I wanted to do I simply said “I’ll go back to my room and recheck everything.” When I got back to my room I realized the ad on the bedside stand was not the same place that advertized on the room key card. I had been in the wrong place all that while. Glad I didn’t stay!
As I reflected upon and eventually laughed about my embarrassing adventure (and yes you can feel embarrassed even if no one else knows what you did!), I realized that this was not the first time I had been in the wrong place in my life. I’ve often made decisions and taken actions that landed me in many wrong places. And I’m sure I will be in more wrong places. What I’m learning is this: “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.” Yes – seek forgiveness. But ‘repent’ also means to turn around and head in the opposite direction. The Psalmist wrote (34:14) “Turn from evil and do good.” Similarly, Ezekiel said, “Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” You see, I could have apologized to the nice man and had him bake a good pizza – but I would have paid for a pizza I never received or ate; I would have forfeited the blessing of what turned out to be a fabulous pizza. I wouold have ‘died’ to that pleasure.
So “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.” Change your location and your actions. Otherwise you’ll never move forward and never get the pizza you deserve and have paid for. Being sorry and embarrassed is not enough. Only true repentance, a true turning of our lives, leads us to the blessing.
So the next time you realize you’re in the wrong place, no one else needs to know. Just remember: “If you’re in the wrong place, repent.”