TIME EQUALS MERCY
A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer’. (Luke 13:6-8 NIV)
I grappled with this verse for days. Couldn’t get away from it. Lost sleep over it. As with all scripture, there are so many applications and depths of meaning, that my thoughts travelled down numerous paths before the Lord reeled me in to the truth He wanted me to know.
Chapter 13 opens with someone in the gathered crowd telling Jesus about the recent tragedy where Galileans were slaughtered in the temple mount at the hand of Pilate. Which seemed like a rather abrupt start to a chapter, not to mention an odd conversation starter when talking to the Prince of Peace. ‘Hey, did you hear about the guy . . .?’
They were living in turbulent times, so such topics were probably on everyone’s lips. It spurred me to venture back in the story to see what led up to that particular bombshell.
As best as I can tell, Jesus had just informed them in so many words, that if they were looking for Him to promote world peace, they’d come to the wrong guy. He was there to make war on sin, and that war would stir things up even worse. The only peace He was offering, was peace with God. Which could only come through turning from the darkness of sin, and following Him. His message was clear. Repent. Get your hearts right with God.
Jesus then used the ghastly news given Him regarding the Galileans, to drive His point home. Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. He further mentioned the eighteen who were crushed beneath the Siloam tower when it fell, and asked His listeners if they thought these were more guilty than others living in Jerusalem. Again, He answered His own question. No! But unless you repent, you too will perish. His obvious point again being—Repent. In fact, He said it twice. And when He says something twice, people had better listen.
What attitudes or mindsets in His listeners was He targeting? Were they feeling casual indifference toward the suffering of others? Were they blame shifting and finding fault as though the victims deserved such tragedies? He was definitely after something in their hearts. Whatever it was, they needed to repent.
Up to this point, I’d been a casual listener to their conversation because I was already a follower of Jesus. Keeping my heart right with Him through repentance has been my every-day goal and my prayer for others, for years.
But when I got to the part in Jesus’ parable, where the gardener said, ‘Leave it another year and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer’, the power of Jesus’ words suddenly stepped into my world and stung me with conviction. I was right back there with His listeners and I, too, needed to repent.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken center stage today. It’s been the subject on everyone’s lips. So much so, that I’ve been sick of hearing about it, and social distancing, and washing hands, and wearing masks, and finding fault, and blame shifting . . . and deaths. Consequentially, I had begun to disengage. Fervent, heartfelt prayers for people suffering and dying without knowing Jesus, had made an unintended shift. My focus had slowly narrowed to praying God’s protection over family and friends and people groups, and asking God to comfort those who’d lost loved ones because of the virus. Without realizing it, world peace had become my desired goal as well and I was breezing over what was most important. Lives are being prematurely snuffed out, not only by Covid-19, but by the suffocating disease called sin. People are suffering and dying without personally knowing the Prince of Peace, Jesus, and experiencing the inner peace that only He can give. It's not just about getting past this virus so life can go on as usual, because there will be a host of trials and troubles in its wake. The day of Jesus' return is at hand and hearts aren’t ready for Him.
So, I repented, and determined to beef up my prayers for those who haven’t yet surrendered to Him. This is no time for me, or any Christian, to become distracted or disengage. As people who believe that God answers prayer, we can’t let up at a time like this. It’s a warzone out there!
Lord, give us another chance! Give us more time to pray—time to ‘break up the fallow ground’ in our hearts that’ve become hardened by offense, or like mine, cluttered with cares of this world. (Hosea 10:12, Mark 4:10-20) Grace us to pray for others, that the soil of their hearts becomes good ground to receive You and Your words of life. We will make it our focus in prayer. We will give it our special attention!
Because time equals mercy with You.