Repent or perish. I’ve worked my entire career to avoid using this phrase from Luke 13:5. I’ve been afraid that if the Christian message is reduced to these three words, people will hear in them only an angry God, a God who uses any excuse to punish us. But sometimes, I admit, I’m just trying to soften “repent or perish” so I can present a God with whom everyone is comfortable—a God who has better manners, a God I’m not embarrassed to take out into public.
I try to put the scriptural phrase from Luke 13 in context. I remind listeners of the context of the verse, which describes the recent deaths of 18 Galileans and the question subsequently asked by Jesus’ followers, “Were they worse sinners than other Galileans?” Jesus tells them that these people were no more sinful than all of the rest of us: that his point is that the need to repent extends to all of God’s children.