Return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God. Hosea 12:6
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
A call to return implies that people have wandered. Sometimes that is a long and well-worn path. They turn their backs on God, his ways, his laws, his values, and his gracious redemption. They ignore their neighbor in need. They determine for themselves what is good and evil. They despise Jesus’ sacrificial death, ignore the life-changing power of his resurrection from the dead, and deny their need to answer to him on the Great Last Day.
Most who would read these words would not embrace such a lifestyle. We thank God for his redemption. We rejoice in his salvation. We seek to honor him by keeping his commandments. We do not walk the well-worn path of abandonment. Yet this is a call for us as well: “Return to your God…”
Luther puts it this way:
…the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. (Small Catechism, Baptism)
Returning implies not only the past wandering, but a recommitment to the present life of “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” The drowning of the old nature in baptism gives way to a new kind of life. This is not a one-time act. It is a way of life. And when we lose our temper, realize we have hardened our hearts to the plight of others, been unkind or arrogant, we repent and return to God, and seek to reflect his love, mercy, humility, kindness and patience with us.