“Everything changes and nothing stands still.”—Heraclitus
“After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives and trust this good news!”—Mark 1:14-15
Change is a funny thing. On the one hand, we recognize it is inevitable, it is going to happen. We say things like, “Only two things in life are guaranteed: death and taxes.” We look in the mirror and watch ourselves age from childhood to adulthood to old age, all while encouraging or discouraging the result. We can look at the world today see clearly that it is not the world of our yesterday.
On the other hand, we struggle against this inevitable change. We try exercise and special diets to combat the aging of our internal bodies while using an assortment of chemical concoctions to keep the outside looking and seeming younger. We hang on to the things of our youth, things keeping life change at bay: music, clothes, culture, ideas and are loath to give them up. We talk about the good old days as though they were the perfection of our civilization, a way of life to return to in order to feel right about the world.
Change is also something out of our control, something that will happen whether we like it or not. It is happening as we speak, everything on this planet, in this universe, is changing. Everything from the molecular structure of the flowers outside to the ideas about culture which will be prevalent today but gone tomorrow, all of it is growing, becoming, ceasing to be what it was. It is being altered into something not quite as it was.
For some of us, this acceptable. Some recognize it is simply how things God has ordered in the universe. For others, it is a frightening movement in a direction that is at the least fearful to travel. Many if not most of us find it to be a mixed bag where we accept some kinds of change but not all of the change. Things like aging can be conceded to change but things like belief and culture, not so much. I think the level of acceptance seems to be limited to those things which have the least immediate effect.
There is also a kind of change that really isn’t change at all. It’s really more of a superficial, fadish thing which doesn’t actually change anything in a deep, meaningful way but simply makes it appear to be something new on the outside. It’s kind of like fad diets or exercise programs for the soul: you think it’s great for a while, show all your friends you’re doing it, then get bored with it, put it back in a box, and put it on a shelf somewhere. This isn’t real life change. This is being aware of social trends and finding a bandwagon to ride.
The truth of the matter is change is central to the Way of Jesus. In fact, the Way of Jesus is the way of change because the goal of following Jesus is become like Jesus, to change into a kind of living version of Jesus in the here and now. We become “a new creation” as Paul writes, and that new creation is something which leaves the old ways, old culture, old way of being behind. We no longer live for ourselves but for the goal of becoming like Jesus as little imitation of Christ. In order to do this, we must embrace change as we let go of self. This process of letting go of self to embrace change is central to what the Way fo Jesus calls us to do and be.
In so many ways, the greater Church finds itself at a crossroads. We are looking at being a quarter of the way through the twenty-first century in a few years. What have we really accomplished in the grander scheme of things, going the direction we are now? Church division? In fighting? Distancing ourselves from the people we are seeking to make disciples of? Good change is like good trouble: we need to get into some on a regular basis. Who knows? Maybe good change can bring healing to some of the wounded in the Church and some of those the Church has wounded.