Question: How many church members does it take to change a light bulb?
Whoever first said that old adage, “the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes” missed one important and inescapable certainty: change. Either that, or they just grouped it together with death.
If there’s one thing that’s as certain as the reality of change, it’s mankind’s universal resistance to change. No matter how progressive a person may seem to be, deep down inside, we all hate the thought of change. The only honest person who thinks change is a good idea is a baby with a wet diaper, and even he/she will often cry through the whole process. Yet, life is guaranteed to serve us an ongoing series of changes, sometimes forcing us out of our “comfort zone” when we least expect it. The difference between success and failure is often found in how we react to the inevitable, though not always welcome, reality of change.
There are some who say that Jesus was an “agent of change.” That is a true statement, but unfortunately the term is so abused in today’s society that it’s hard to use it in Christian circles without being suspected as a double-agent of the New Age movement. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that Jesus called men and women to change—sometimes to radical change. While there are many examples in the Scriptures, there are two examples that come to mind that illustrate the best and worst reaction to Jesus’ call to change.
The religious power-brokers didn’t care much for Jesus. They had a good thing going with their traditions and other man-made supplements to the Scripture. Jesus called for them to return to the basics, to recapture the “Spirit of the Law.” To follow Jesus’ teaching would have meant releasing some of the societal control that they had carefully and methodically developed, and would cut into the profits of their lucrative professions. They had supplemented the Scriptures with their own traditions to such an extreme that they failed to recognize the pattern of fulfilled prophecy that testified to Jesus’ identity as their Messiah. Odd though it may seem, these who were supposedly the world’s leading authorities on Scriptural matters were unable to see what the Magi from the east—who weren’t even Jews—could see in the Scriptures. All they saw was a troublemaker trying to push them out of their comfort zone. They reacted by plotting against him, planting false testimony, and arranging for this innocent man to be executed.
The early church, as documented in the book of Acts, had the same religious roots. They accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and understood their newfound empowerment to be basically a “Jewish thing.” It was a major assault on their dignity to even suggest that those “Gentile dogs” could have much standing at all in the Kingdom of God, much less to suggest that Gentile and Jew could be equal in the sight of God. The first reaction of the leadership was to call Peter on the carpet, just for associating with these foreigners. Yet, as Peter explained in detail way that God had coaxed him into stretching his comfort zone, they found the Holy Spirit calling them to a similar change of heart. They examined the change, saw God’s hand in it, and chose to embrace that change, rather than resist it. The result opened new doors of missionary opportunity that changed the world, and that continue to change the world today.
Change is not always good—movements to compromise authority and inerrancy of the Bible, calls to change the definition of sin, and any attempt to water down our faith with man-made philosophies are changes that we need to fight with all our might. When change shows it’s face at the door, we can resist it just because it’s change, or accept it just because it’s change—two popular philosophies in today’s society—but the best way to examine change is to follow the example of the early church. They examined the change in the light of the Scriptures, guided by the Holy Spirit, and when they saw that God was in it, they openly embraced that change, whether it was comfortable or not. By following God’s direction to leave their “comfort zone,” they were empowered to change their world—and by doing the same, so can you.