Afraid of Change

By Mark A. Taylor

Most crucial attributes of the Christian life are more easily discussed than demonstrated.

All of us want to be forgiven, for example. But when wronged grievously, most of us struggle to forgive.

In the same way, we laud grace, chastity, love, and perseverance. But when faced with another’s failure, our own temptation, a difficult coworker, or an overwhelming trial, how often do we react with something less than the ideal we’ve studied and taught?

This disconnect between belief and behavior is universal. Realizing that sanctification is a process and not an event, we need not beat ourselves when we sometimes fall short.

But still it is surprising, isn’t it, when longtime Christians demonstrate an immature preoccupation and preference for their own opinion instead of the greater good? Nowhere is this seen more readily than when church leaders decide something should change.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’m a member of a congregation with a new minister who will inevitably bring us new ideas for reaching new non-Christians with new approaches. A late adopter myself (I still mail checks and make calls with a definitely dumb phone), my natural reaction to change is to avoid it.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, even the possibility of change worries me. So I was encouraged by a quote from the late writer and editor Mignon McLaughlin that popped off a page this week: “Loneliness, insomnia, and change: the fear of these is even worse than the reality,” she wrote.

She must have realized that people have been afraid of change through the centuries. The Bible is full of stories about people troubled, if not terrified, by change.

Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to turn to God. Moses didn’t believe God would use him to lead the captive Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. And as soon as these self-centered Israelites escaped, they told Moses they wanted to go back.

The New Testament describes how only a blinding miracle from God could change Saul from a Christian killer to a Christian preacher. Only a graphic dream from God could convince Peter that Christians don’t have to cook kosher.

The story of God is always a story about change. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (1 Corinthians 5:17, King James Version).

I doubt “all things” will become new at my church anytime soon. But I’m guessing some things will, in an effort to introduce nonbelievers to the exhilarating change that is the essence of coming to Christ.

Frankly, sometimes I’m a little worried about how my friends and I will react to these changes. But McLaughlin has reminded me that the fear is worse than the eventual reality. And the Bible convinces me that change is key to the commitment and growth we say we want for everybody.

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