Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 57; 145, Job 4:1, 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27, Acts 9:19b-31, John 6:52-59
Lasting change is difficult to make. After we’ve found the motivation to make a positive change, we must struggle with a world inclined to keep us as we were. If we leave behind bad habits, friends who shared those habits may try to drag us back to our old ways for their own purposes. If we’ve repeatedly promised change only to let down our friends and family, they may view new declarations of change with understandable suspicion. Real change can’t depend on how other people perceive us, but on how we perceive ourselves.
When Paul did a spiritual 180 and started preaching in Jesus’ name, people who knew him were amazed at his radical change. Those in Jerusalem who did not want to accept his change plotted to kill him. On the other hand, when he joined the disciples “they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” Many of them had been evading him for some time, and only the testimony of Barnabas on Paul’s behalf swayed them.
Paul’s old associates were invested in keeping him the same, and the people he hoped to make his new associates weren’t ready to accept him. Despite these attitudes, Paul persevered because he was dedicated to God above all others. To a lesser degree, we may experience the same thing when we make a change. If we decide to give up gossip, for example, the friends we used to gossip with will undoubtedly feel snubbed when we decline to participate. Given our history, other people will find it difficult to trust us. The same would be true of addictions, lying, spitefulness, or any host of vices. A truly penitent heart will persevere in change whether other people accept the change or not; our relationship with God will sustain us.
We can’t change any mind but our own. When we know we need to make a positive change, we must be prepared to endure and overcome resistance, and not let that resistance discourage us. God doesn’t promise us ease, but to be with us through everything.
Comfort: When we change our hearts, God knows and accepts.
Challenge: Be supportive to someone who is trying to change.
Prayer: God of truth, in you I am made new every day. Thank you for second and third chances. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever made a change people chose not to accept or support?
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