We have been talking and thinking and dreaming and doing justice the last six weeks as Jacob’s Well. It has been interesting. I know people who have started some pretty admirable endeavors, one person told me he wants to quit his job and open a communal house as a long term shelter for homeless people. Many have done nothing. There is no judgement, there is learning and watching and wondering. This is hard stuff and the changes that could happen, that should happen will take time – more than six weeks.
One thing I relearned during this time is just how the world is going to change. I truly believe that God wants the world to change, to better reflect God’s intentions, love, hope and righteousness than it does. But it isn’t going to change because we change it. Really, I mean it! The world needs to change, we are part of the change, BUT that change doesn’t happen because we get around to making it happen. The world changes when we let God change us.
Gandhi’s quote is famous, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It is as true as it is profound. What it doesn’t say is that even that change isn’t made by us. The world needs to be changed, and it happens when we are changed, but that change needs to come from beyond us. We cannot comprehend the nature or the scope of the change, we do not have the will nor the patience to make it. We have to let God do it.
Jesus talked about those who give up their life for his sake would find it (Luke 9.24). Paul talked about dying and rising to Christ (Romans ch.6). But how does that happen? How do we let God change us. This is hard to answer because sooner or later we get to something that we do. The difference is that this isn’t a matter of continually trying to manipulate ourselves or the world, but of simple dwelling in God. Being still, listening for God anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes getting away from the world to hear, other times diving into the world to hear. And when we notice anything – even the something-almost-nothing (1 Kings 19.12), letting God know we are afraid and don’t know how. And asking God to remake our hearts to receive the change we cannot make ourselves.
It is good to have a community of people who walk along with you when you try to let change like this start happening in your life. And when our communities become holy places wide open to this happening in and among them, this world is going to get changed.
Amen! The great temptation in Christianity is to turn it into what we have to do, what we have to achieve. It makes sense in a results-oriented society. We hear the announcement of the Kingdom and an invitation to be a part of it, but it doesn’t match up with what we see around us, so we set out to put on our work gloves and make it happen. Which is a great thing, at times–Christians armed and ready to work for the Kingdom!–that’s a powerful thing. The problem is that it can create a situation in which we can no longer hear God’s word to us, which is the announcement of forgiveness and God’s presence with (and even within) us.
We Jacob’s Well preachers and worship leaders were having this same discussion today. The opposite side of the coin is that even when it is God doing it, not us, it is in some sense us. I mean in the most practical sense, when I go to the foodshelf to volunteer, “I” have to go. God doesn’t raise my body of bed, shower, dress and feed me and transport my body to the foodshelf. For those trying to figure out what it means to rely on God and not themselves, to not try to work out their faith by doing things, but to dwell in God to be changed by God, they are still looking for something to change in them and in what they do.
What’s the answer to this? Well… that’s why we like being a church that is in search of the better question, not the illusory answer. There is no ‘answer’ to this, the quandary is real. My sense is that the real response to this dilemma is developing eyes that see beyond what is being done to who people are in God’s eyes. Including oneself. It motivates us to do good works (biblical) but finds joy in them not because of their success, but because they give glimpses into the kingdom of God.
Hmmm… I think we need parables to tell this story. Not arguments that answer this question.