There is something scary about “change” for most people! We are creatures of habit more than we like to admit, and if change comes about in our lives we tend to resist it, and we often fear it. Even though the current situation, (the status quo) may be painful to us—-at least we know where we are, what to expect, and how to cope with the pain the situation causes, because we’ve been living with it—-and therefore we are very suspicious of any “change for the better” that might be suggested. We say, what if it only makes things worse?
We see this fear of change in the lives of women who are abused by their husbands or significant others. For example, in the NFL Ray Rice case, where the woman who was knocked out cold by Rice in an elevator and dragged out by her feet, went ahead and married him. Eventually, I predict, she will either die at his hands or have to find some way get away from her now husband—-because he is not going to change and she will be unable to change him. And yet she remains with Rice. I suspect either fear of Rice or fear of change is the reason, although there is no way for me to know for sure.
In our churches we see fear of change as one of the major reasons that attendance is dropping and churches are closing. Many churches have actually closed rather than change the way they go about doing church that speaks to the needs for involvement in the community and electronic social media practices of a new generation of Millenials. In essence, the closing churches choose to die rather than change!
It’s strange that churches bearing the name of Jesus should fear change, as one of the greatest advocates for change was Jesus of Nazareth whom they claim to follow. Richard Rohr, in his Good News According to the Gospel of Luke: Spiritual Reflections. sees Jesus as a revolutionary and an advocate for radical change. He says the blatant contradiction between the message and actions of the church and Jesus’ message and actions are what is holding the church back here and around the world:
“We preach a self-absorbed gospel of piety and religiosity, not a lifestyle gospel. Luke (in his gospel) is preaching a lifestyle gospel, not a Sunday-church thing at all. Luke is talking about living the gospel seven days a week. His gospel is so radical that if you truly believed its message (of Jesus) it would call into question all the assumptions you currently hold about the way you live, how you use time, whom you relate to, how you marry, how much money you have. Everything you think and do would be called into question and viewed in a new way, because Jesus is Lord and Jesus is Love.”
Marcus Borg, in his book Jesus, Uncovering the life, teachings, and relevance of a religious revolutionary also portrays Jesus of Nazareth as a revolutionary who was non-violently seeking to overthrow the economic, social, political and religious domination system of the Roman world during his time. Jesus did this on behalf of the poor, the sick, the people at the bottom of the social scale. He challenged the religious domination of the priestly-temple system of Judaism to change. Jesus’ teaching that God is a God of love and forgiveness were direct challenges to the need for a temple and sacrifices and priests as there was no longer a need for priests and sacrifices and the temple to relate to God and receive God’s love and forgiveness. Human beings can relate directly to the God of Love that Jesus proclaimed, so they don’t need a priest and sacrifices to be forgiven. Revolutionary!! Jesus turned the “pecking order” of his society on its head with his teaching that “the greatest among you will be the servant of all”. These are the major reasons he was killed by the Romans at the insistence of the Jewish religious establishment. Change is dangerous, as well as being scary if you are living the change—i.e. “Being the Change” as Jesus was doing. Those in power do not yield easily if the change means the loss of their power. Jesus didn’t just advocate systemic change—-his life and his teachings mirrored that systemic change. He described and lived his life as it would be lived in the Kingdom of God that he proclaimed was here in the world. It was a revolutionary change from the status quo. Jesus was “Being the Change“!!
One of favorite quotations is from the wisdom of Ghandi, the Indian leader for the independence of India from Great Britain. Ghandi says: BE THE CHANGE.!!
Ghandi, in his wisdom, is saying that it’s not enough for us to speak for change—-No! Our message and our actions must be the same. In order to bring about change you and I must change. Change is not something that happens because people talk about it, debate it, fear it, advocate it or demand it—-change comes about when people live the change!
What do you think needs to change in our society today? What do you think needs to change in our churches? Are you just “talking” about it or are you willing to “be the change”? The change won’t happen unless we are willing to “Be the Change”!!