First impressions matter. It only takes three seconds for someone to form an opinion about you. People observe your dress, your facial expressions (are you smiling or frowning), your body language, your first words and then, bam! They have an opinion about you.
Researchers claim that it is nearly impossible to reverse or undo a first impression. Is that true?
I absolutely try my hardest not to judge someone on a first impression, which is usually what I see. A first glance at someone can be so misleading. I met a young lady a few years ago who was covered in tats, she wore her hair in dreadlocks and her clothing was, well, in my day we would have said, “Hippie like.”
I found her intriguing. But, others, based only on first impressions, might have thought she was a wild thing, rebellious and unapproachable.
She was none of those things. First impressions influence the way we believe, and then, behave.
Jesus, renowned for being the greatest moral teacher in all of history, made a first impression. He must have known that what he did first and what he said right from the beginning would have a considerable impact on his entire ministry.
The first thing Jesus did publicly was get baptized. He was sinless, so was that act symbolic? Could he have been demonstrating “a washing away,” a cleansing, of all the old thinking about God? Was Jesus communicating that this new life with him was going to be different? Brand new? Better?
It was a first impression. What did he hope to convey?
Then, after spending 40 days alone in the desert preparing, Jesus began his ministry with these first words:
The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.
Was Jesus saying that with his arrival, the kingdom of God was no longer far away, something to be longed for or sought after but that it was happening right now, because of him? Was he saying that his ways of living and loving were the standards for God’s kingdom?
Some read his next six words as a command, an imperative: Repent and believe the good news.
Most of us read those words and think, “Repent! Tell God all the awful things you’ve thought and done and turn from your wicked ways!” It feels kind of scary and elicits emotions similar to those we have when we read the hand-painted placards of street preachers: Turn or Burn!
But, what if when Jesus spoke of repentance he was not commanding you to clean up your act and abide by a bunch of rules, but instead was issuing you an invitation to know the goodness of God?
The word “repent” in both the original Greek and Hebrew means, “a change of mind.”
So was Jesus inviting us to change our minds about God?
Jesus was not going to simply tell the world to think differently ... he was going to show us by the way he lived who God is and how he feels towards us. Jesus would heal, he would listen, he would touch, he would forgive, he would teach, he would admonish, he would serve, he would make a way. And, finally, he would lay down his life to save his world.
And it all began with a first impression, which was an invitation ... to repent.
Larry and Linda Kloster sponsor this column.
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