Weekly Reflection: June 10, 2021

Dear Grace Church Family,

Increasingly, these days, on tv and in conversations, we are hearing that people are not capable of change; that who we are and will ever be is all decided before the age of 6. But it’s not true! As Christians, we are in the Redemption business, and we are led by one who is The Redeemer. The letter to the Galatians briefly refers to one who was changed, not just in attitude, but in character. He was redeemed because he chose to follow The Redeemer.

Fr. Rick Miles+

Galatians 1:18-2:10: a witness to change. Can a person change his or her basic character? Can the cruel become kind, the vulgar become refined, the cowardly become courageous?

It is an important question. Few of us are all we want to be. But can we become? We hear from Scripture of God’s design for our lives; we are given the vision again of what God has created us to be. But when we compare the design with our present reality, we are confronted by a gulf between the present and the vision. We know that we need to change, but still we wonder, “Can we change?”

Our lesson from Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a witness to God’s answer to this question. God’s answer? “Of course. You can change.” Consider the witness of the Apostle Paul in these few verses of our passage. Verse 13, “You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism, I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.” Now look at verses 23 and 24, “…’The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.”

Paul, by his own admission, was a zealous advocate of his Pharisaic faith. Rather, we should say, he was so fanatically attached to a particular kind of fundamentalist orthodoxy that he could not tolerate conflicting views. It is important to make that distinction because it is possible to have the same kind of misguided zeal for the cause of Christ.

The important thing to note here, however, is that Paul did change. He became the great missionary apostle for Christ. But it was not that he simply exchanged one orthodoxy for another. He was changed heart, mind, and spirit. Just look at I Corinthians 13 if you need the evidence of it. Start at verse 4 where Paul writes, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Though Paul himself would never have claimed to have achieved such perfection of love, he certainly did come to understand it, to write masterfully about it, and to exhibit it more and more in his life. What a difference; a real change in character, not just a change in belief or purpose.

Here is the point: change is a wondrous possibility for all of God’s children. Indeed, it is a key ingredient of the Imago Dei, the image of God, in which you and I have been created. Of all of God’s creatures we seem to be the only ones who possess this quality. We are made to change. True, many animals have creative, even problem-solving abilities, but these are driven by an instinctive need to adapt. For this reason, the beaver dams, birds nest, and the ant hills of the 21st Century are no different from those of a hundred thousand years ago.

But as humans, we can create entirely new models. We can take the raw materials given to us by God and arrange them in a pattern that bears the stamp of an individual creative mind. Taking words, colors, clay, musical notes, bricks, or marble, a man or woman may shape something that has never been. We find such activity fulfilling. Why? Because we are living up to the image of God woven deep in our inmost being. We are made to change, and to be change agents.

We can change. Or, perhaps we should say, be changed. The most important change that can happen in our lives is one that we can begin right now; to commit more deeply to a relationship with Jesus Christ and his will for life. He is the vision of what we can be, and the source of the power to make that vision happen in us. Call on him; he’s already in you. Let him guide and empower.