Chapter 6—Repentance: Surrender Your Sword
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. —Acts 17:30
We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are… rebels who must lay down our arms. —C. S. Lewis C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Macmillan, p. 91.
Repentance is the first bit of firm ground underfoot, the only one from which we can go forward… repentance is the only starting point for spiritual growth. Alexander Solzhenitsyn Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “Repentance and Self-Limitation,” From Under the Rubble, Bantam, p. 10.7.
Not long ago a movie appeared on television entitled “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford. Although I missed a good portion of the film, I turned the set on in time to catch the rather intriguing conclusion. The setting was inside an enormous arena where a political congregation had come to cheer on their candidates. The place was jam-packed and rippling with energy and anticipation. The viewer was made extremely tense by a periodic scan of the candidates on the platform through the cross-hairs of a scope on a high-powered rifle. Finally, the inevitable occurred as several politicians were felled by an assassin lurking in the rafters. The ensuing footage captured one of the most unbounded displays of mass hysteria I’ve seen filmed. Security guards were swept along helplessly in the raging torrent of terrorized humanity. Scores of people were mercilessly trampled to death in the every-man-for-himself stampede. Heaving officials beaded with perspiration called on Redford, the Candidate, to “say something” to calm the people as they desperately fought for the lives of the downed politicians. Manning the podium, Redford scanned the vicious currents and whirlpools of the crazed arena. Finally, overwhelmed by the sight, he began a cynical monologue capitalizing on earlier campaign rhetoric. Pounding the podium, he yelled into the microphone in order to surface above the deafening crowd: “We’re OK! There’s nothing wrong with us.” All the while the, cameras delivered closeups of bodies crushed in the scramble, screaming women, fistfights and general hysteria as every technique was employed to save one’s own skin. Although the story was political, I couldn’t help but see a spiritual parallel.