Text: Mark 1:15
The gospel reading for this week still deals with the first few verses of Mark, this very short version of a much more complex history.
Reading the text, my eyes were drawn again and again to Mar 1:15: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
I was reminded of a reflection Nelis wrote long ago – in 2006. He wrote about Mark1 vs 15 and vs 17, but I will focus on some of his thoughts on vs 15:
“But we have to be careful to assume without further ado that we understand what “Repent and believe the good news!” …mean(s) to us today. …”
“Some preachers say that where there is a high incidence of HIV and AIDS, “repentance” means: “Those who practice free sex must stop doing it”. From this point of view, the role of Christians and the church is to go out to the “promiscuous people” and persuade them to change their ways… In other words: to these preachers and Christians it is the “others”, the “sinners”, who have to repent.”
“But the story of the AIDS pandemic is also a story of judgement and rejection (stigmatisation), denial, apathy and self-justification. Christians and churches have often been guilty of these loveless reactions and actions that most definitely require repentance.”
“When I read Mark 1:14-20 again, it strikes me that Jesus’ call for repentance … comes in the first instance to Israel, the people of God. This reminds me of what a friend once said: The Bible is for the church and the Church is for the world. In other words: The church must read and hear and obey the Bible, so that the world can read and hear and understand the gospel in the life and actions of the church.”
“In the midst of the AIDS pandemic the call for repentance… is in the first instance directed to Christians and the church. We will have to repent of attitudes and words and actions that grieve Christ, our Leader, and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. When we do this, we as his disciples will be able to practice the love of Jesus in the midst of the AIDS pandemic.”
To think about: It is six years after Nelis wrote this reflection. Has the situation changed? Has the church repented of hurtful attitudes about HIV? How can you help your faith community to accept its guilt and repent?