So, recently I’ve been thinking about how we change, partly because I had to write a report looking at moral transformation, which if you follow me on Twitter, you will know has been a lengthy and somewhat difficult process… Plus in January’s Christianity magazine Jeff Lucas wrote an article entitled: ‘Nearly four decades of pastoral leadership has taught me this unpalatable truth: people rarely change’. And on top of that I preached a few weeks back from Philippians and looked a bit at how we change when we become Christians and how God uses that. So here’s a few slightly rambling thoughts…
I think we can assume that as we grow older we change. I always find it funny when people say, as an insult, ‘ooh she’s changed’, I mean after all, I’m not sure any of us want to be the same person we were at 16 do we? Of course we change! We grow, we have experiences, life happens and gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) we change.
So what about for Christians? I don’t believe that we radically change in terms of our make up/ traits etc, when we become a Christian. I believe that when we are conceived, or created that we have within us all that God wants us to be. So then when we come to know Him He takes all of that and uses it to its full potential for His kingdom. For example Saul, passionate, dedicated zealot, becomes Paul, passionate and dedicated – for God’s kingdom instead of persecuting it.
As Christians our aim has to be, surely, to become more Christ like throughout our lives. Our lives are a journey, and through that journey we come to know more of God, more of his plans for us, more of his character. I mean just as I have no desire to be the same person I was at 16, I wouldn’t expect to be in the same place with God in 10 years time as I am now. So then if our aim is to be more Christ like, then we are surely being morally transformed in this way, by our experiences and by life in general.
Jeff Lucas suggests that for many Christians life has become comfortable, got a bit boring and so we just plod on without any intention of changing. Which is rather a depressing thought isn’t it? I mean even if I weren’t a Christian I would hope that I would be shaped by life experiences – you know the old saying, we learn from our mistakes? Lucas says: ‘having tamed the bigger beasts, we settle down and wait for the sound of a trumpet, when everything will be changed in a moment.’ Can that really be the case that for some after the initial big bang, they just carry on as normal? I wonder then, if those people are getting the right teaching, or the right encouragement!
I was having a chat along these lines with a friend after a particularly challenging ethics class, who suggested that if we believe that we become more christ like, does that not imply we have a better view of ourselves, than say, Joe Bloggs on the street? Can we say that we are a better person than we once were? The answer is I think, that we can and do change, but we only do so by God’s grace.
So then I wonder do we actually change or are we simply becoming more of who God has already intended us to be? When we are ‘changed’ by experience is that because of a deliberate choice to respond to experience? One of the books we looked at for my ethics module this term is Virtue Reborn by Tom Wright, where he suggests that ones character is formed from a deliberate choice of action:
‘Character is transformed by three things. First
you have to aim at the right goal. Second you have to figure out the right
steps you need to get to that goal. Third, those steps have to become habitual,
a matter of second nature’
Is a deliberate choice to change the key thing here? or will God shape us in this way no matter what? As with my report I find I am still left with questions… love to know others thoughts!