Thinking about change fascinates me. Change in and of itself actually does not make sense to me. How does it happen? How do some people change a lot in their lifetime, and others stay the same? How do you get it to happen if you want it to happen? Is it something that can be done, or is it something that just happens in its own time?
My thinking patterns usually find a way to circle back to trying to figure out the concept of change, because it connects with almost everything in life. I wish I could figure out the answer to how to control the concept of change.
When people want to change things going on in the government, their only chance to make a change is a vote. I realize the importance and the power behind voting, but still, it is not guaranteed to bring about the change that you as the voters want.
When you want to change cultural norms, how do we make that change when the entire culture is already comfortable with current events? How do we convince an entire culture things could be better with a little momentary discomfort?
When you want to change people who could be happier, godlier, or more successful with life changes, how do you not only convince them of that but also keep them accountable to not give up on changing half way through?
When you want to change a company to save money or make a difference in your community, how do you convince CEOs and administrations that change is worth their time and money?
I think a natural side of my personality wants to fight for change, like a male lion fighting for his claim of dominance over his pride. If there is a right decision that people resist, shouldn’t we fight for it? If people are being hurt, shouldn’t we try to push change on them to help them realize that they are wrong?
The thing is, fighting for change almost always results in a pyrrhic victory. You can get anyone to give up on a fight if you fight hard enough and long enough. My sister and I know this pretty well from our years of practicing as kids. “OK, you win.” I call that a pyrrhic victory though because by winning the battle we often lose more than we won. Is getting people to realize they need to change worth losing the relationship with that person?
Pyrrhus was a king leading an army against the Roman Empire, which historically speaking meant he did not have much of a chance of winning. He did win though, and the losses he sustained through that victorious battle ruined any chance of winning the war. Rome of course had lots of replacement supplies and men to fill in for losses, but Pyrrhus had no such luxury. Plutarch wrote in The Life of Pyrrhus, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
Likewise, if fighting to help a community change to become better cripples the people in that community, what is the point?
This is why I wish I could figure out the secret to change. If fighting is not the best, could there be another way to cultivate change in the world around us? Is there a more creative way to address issues we see to encourage change in this world?
Jesus lived out the most perfect example of cultivating change. He changed everything, which makes His example powerful.
1. He changed who could go to heaven. Jesus opened up the gates of heaven to anyone who followed Him. He grafted in gentiles into a Jewish faith. He also became the new and perfect Priest, allowing anyone to go directly to the Father through Him.
2. He took away the need for animal sacrifice.
3. He changed our understanding of birth and death. He was the only virgin birth to ever exist and He also is the only person that has ever been able to resurrect himself.
4. He changed our view of morality and economics by beginning a reverse economics worldview. To be last is to be first; to give is to receive; love your enemies; the poor are actually richer; you must first die to self to live for God.
5. He changed the people who came into contact with him. He healed sicknesses; He forgave sinners and made it possible for them to become righteous; He freed slaves; He loved the hated; He fed the hungry. Everywhere He went, He became a symbol of change.
6. He changed the calendar: BC to AD. All of time and dating literally changed around Him.
The thing is, He did not fight people on these changes, and not everyone around Him changed. The Pharisees were not willing to change, and Jesus reproached them with gentle words of truth. Did they understand? No. Did Jesus force them to understand? No.
What about Judas? Jesus knew his heart. Jesus was aware of how he was scheming and money hungry. Jesus took time to teach Judas that the key to happiness was not money. Judas probably nodded and agreed, but he obviously never changed.
First thing to note, Jesus always voiced the areas that needed to change. I make this point because people normally take one of two sides: fight to the death for what we believe is right OR never get involved/give up on even trying to cultivate change in the world.
One of the most forceful moments in Jesus’ ministry was when He chased the moneymakers out of the temple with a whip. He did not just blow up and chase them out in a moment of rage, considering He took time to make a whip and plan. He was not forcing a permanent change either, because the people went right back after the drama was over. He was making a point to all of Israel that things needed to change and that God was not happy with the sinfulness that the nation had allowed to become a cultural norm.
Jesus definitely did not come to earth to force change, though many of His followers wished that He would by becoming an earthly king. He was seen as a quiet lamb being brought to slaughter. He also did not swing to the other side of the pendulum by giving up on change. He shed light on the darker areas that needed to change; He did what He could to change as much as possible; and then He trusted God to do the rest.
Jesus allowed people the choice to not change. His gentleness, patience, and love seem counterproductive to change, but that was how He won the battle. I guess this is part of His reverse economics, but He had to die to live. He had to lose the battle win the war. He had to let the world not change in order to help them realize how much they needed change.
I find His example of change freeing. It is not my job to change others; it is my job to love people and follow God. Losing an earthly battle does not mean that I am losing the spiritual war.
I still do not understand the best way to bring about change other than to patiently, gently, and consistently reflect that change in the way I live. Jesus is the biggest change this world has ever seen, but the people of that time had no idea. It took time for the world to realize how much change could actually be brought about by one Person.