Empty Promises

Empty Promises

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:8

Some struggle with admitting guilt and feeling remorse. Whenever I’ve engaged in behavior that has been destructive to myself and those around me though, I’ve felt terrible. I’ve cried and apologized, promising to do better next time. My problem isn’t in admitting my problem. My problem is in actually changing. Sure, I’ve sworn that I’ll never do it again, but my behavior has betrayed my lack of any real transformation as I’ve repeatedly relapsed into whatever it was that I vowed I’d never do again.

This is a problem for the addict, who often truly feels sorry. He experiences sincere remorse and he genuinely believes that his regret will translate into sobriety. He is often offended by other’s disbelief and he desperately desires that his promises be taken seriously. He changes nothing though, and soon, he is back in the behavior he felt remorseful about. The more words an addict uses to insist he’s changed, the less likely he’s actually changed anything.

In today’s passage, John the Baptist announced Christ’s approach, preaching a message of repentance. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2). As the religious leaders of the day came to see him though, he lashed out. You brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7)! John accused them of using empty words to display their devotion to God, while their actions failed to follow. They claimed with their mouths to be God’s people, but their behavior proved that they followed only themselves.

Generally, I now avoid making grand promises that I’ll never fail again. I’ve broken my promises too many times. What I do though, is daily commit to a different life, doing what it takes to remain sober. I don’t live perfectly, but every day, I make a genuine commitment to pursue God, faith, and recovery.

Remorse and sorrow are appropriate responses to our destructive behavior, but simply saying I’m sorry does not change anything. We can make all the promises we want, but repentance means that we actually turn around and go the opposite direction. If we’ve hurt others in our drug addiction, this means apologizing, but it also means daily doing what it takes to change our behavior.

Our empty words and promises mean nothing. Others will know and believe we’ve changed when our lives bear the fruit of repentance.

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