One of the most watched TV series of the past five years was an AMC production called “Breaking Bad.” Bryan Cranston plays a character named Walter White, a high school teacher who starts cooking meth and turns into a very bad fellow indeed. Now I have to admit I have never seen an episode, but I’ve heard from friends how much I have missed. Jack Wisdom, chair of the HGST trustees, has been a big fan of the show. But now he has turned the phrase around and is talking about “Breaking Good.” He is using that phrase as a way of talking about the notion of repentance. In fact, Jack has written a terrific book I’d recommend entitled Breaking Good: Repentance as a Way of Life (White Caps Media, 2016). It is biblically sound, witty and relevant. For a link to it on Amazon click here.
In the Old Testament the concept of repentance is represented by a word that means “to make a turn.” I like to think of it as a “turning point” in your life. In the New Testament the word is metanoia, and it means literally to change your mind. But, of course, a change of behavior is not far behind. In order to follow Jesus we have to recognize we’ve been traveling the wrong way. We have to repent, that is, we have to make a turn and change the way we’ve been thinking and acting. In short, that’s repentance. Take a look at what John the Immerser (aka, the Baptist) had to say:
7 In fulfillment of those words, crowds streamed out from the villages and towns to be baptized by John at the Jordan.
John the Baptist: You bunch of venomous snakes! Who told you that you could escape God’s coming wrath? 8 Don’t just talk of turning to God; you’d better bear the authentic fruit of a changed life. Don’t take pride in your religious heritage, saying, “We have Abraham for our father!” Listen—God could turn these rocks into children of Abraham!
9 God wants you to bear fruit! If you don’t produce good fruit, then you’ll be chopped down like a fruitless tree and made into firewood. God’s ax is taking aim and ready to swing!
People: 10 What shall we do to perform works from changed lives?
John the Baptist: 11 The person who has two shirts must share with the person who has none. And the person with food must share with the one in need.
12 Some tax collectors were among those in the crowd seeking baptism.
Tax Collectors: Teacher, what kind of fruit is God looking for from us?
John the Baptist: 13 Stop overcharging people. Only collect what you must turn over to the Romans.
Soldiers: 14 What about us? What should we do to show true change?
John the Baptist: Don’t extort money from people by throwing around your power or making false accusations, and be content with your pay.
15 John’s bold message seized public attention, and many began wondering if John might himself be the Anointed One promised by God.
For John, repentance means “breaking good” and bearing the right kind of fruit.