I have a riddle for you: what four-letter word actually has six letters, and when you talk about it, people get uncomfortable?
The answer is change.
Now, when we talk about change as the coins that make a tinkling sound in your pocket, that’s change most anybody can believe in. And at times like this – Ontario is in a provincial election campaign – we hear lots about change, some of which is appealing. But most of us, when it comes to the implementation of change, tend to want no part of it. Change is hard.
This was clearly illustrated for me this week on the Internet’s premier social networking site, Facebook. In the middle of the week, Facebook made some formatting changes to what the participant sees upon logging on. It has made changes before, but these changes seem to be the most obvious – and are drawing the most criticism and the greatest resistance.
It’s the human way, isn’t it? We like equilibrium. We like things to be consistent and constant. But if we always got what we wanted, innovation would never be encouraged. We’d still be cooking over open fires, sending messages with quill pens on birch bark via carrier pigeon, singing Psalms in Hebrew. And there would be no Facebook about which to complain!
Change is a reality in our world – a necessary reality. We know this. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t mind change, provided it does not affect us personally.
It’s no different in the church than in the world. In fact, in my experience, if anything, it may be worse in the church than in the world. Some folks think that because the Gospel doesn’t change, our means of expressing and communicating it doesn’t need to change, either. But it does, and it has, throughout the generations. Change in the church is almost always motivated by a desire to reach people, who have not been reached by previous methods, with the good news of Jesus. The motive is right. Some get concerned with the speed of change, but it doesn’t matter if change happens quickly or slowly: some will be frustrated by its pace.
If the church had never been open to change, however, the Gospel could never have reached the whole world. If God were not interested in change, redirecting the hearts of people, Paul might never have been converted, and the Gentiles might never have been reached.
God is very interested in change: first, the changing of hearts toward himself, made known in Jesus Christ; and then, changing those believers from within, to give them hearts that yearn to see others come to know the Lord.
John Henry Cardinal Newman, a profound Christian whose writings you should read, once said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” Indeed.
So whether it’s something as frankly insignificant as Facebook, or something as expensive as municipal sewers, or something as life-altering as turning from sin to follow Jesus, understand that change is integral to life. It may be hard, but as we walk with the Lord, we trust that it is for our good. Embrace it. Make the best of it. Welcome it.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18.3, NIV). Let’s hear it for the kids! Have you ever noticed how well they adapt to change? We have lots to learn.
This weekend at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, it’s Bring a Friend Day! I hope you can join us, and bring a friend with you! God’s best for your weekend.