Some sins are more subtle than others. Take our desire to change people and see them conformed to our ideas and hopes. This sin is often cloaked as a virtue, “I just want to help you…”. Simply put, this is a desire to play God.
The desire to see people change is a good thing. The desire to change them based on our personal interests is something else.
It’s a particular hazard for a those in leadership and parents. Let’s face it, it would be so much easier if everyone thought like you.
People who are having problems getting along with their family, their fellow workers or their community are often guilty of this sin. They cannot rest until everyone around them conforms to their agenda, their ideas and their particular vision of righteousness.
But nowhere in scripture are you and I are asked to change other people. Only God can do that.
We are commanded, by God’s grace, to change ourselves and to strive to conform to His Word. This means first seeing the need for change in ourselves, rather than in others, and leaving the reformation of others to God through the humble ministry of His Word.
Today, of course, this is unpopular. We want change and we will pay big money for the transformation to occur.
We pay people to go to work on us and others and ask of those people the impossible. Or, we work very hard on others, insisting that they are transformed to better suit us. It’s subtle.
It’s also anti-Christian to the core. It places the power to change in the hands of man, not God. It fuels man in his attempt to control and conform others in terms of his ideas, his desires, his comfort.
We are commanded to participate in discipleship and it’s good to long for the change in others that God calls for.
But we have to accept the fact that we just don’t have knives sharp enough to do this kind of surgery. This includes the priestly class of psychologists, psychiatrists and your garden-gnome gestalt family therapist with crystals in their hair.
I am not here taking aim at those who long for change and seek godly help in getting it. I’m taking aim at those who imagine they have the power to change others.
Many years ago, while working in the mental health industry (and it is an industry), I remember reading the sobering statistic that one in three people who sought professional help saw some kind of change. One in three people who sought the help of a friend also saw some positive change as did one in three people who did absolutely nothing at all.
People do have the capacity to make a good many changes, and we should be willing to encourage and assist in that change – so far as it conforms to God’s Word. Equally important is the mechanism by which that change comes.
The reality is, all our clumsy attempts to change other people through quasi-scientific, humanistic and man-centered magic typically leads to a bigger mess and people get hurt.
True Discipleship means calling others to conform to God’s Word. It does not include the right to summon others to be transformed according to our pet interests, especially our pet religious interests.
God Himself conforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) and requires us to,
“…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2).
The pace of change often seems slow to us and so we are called to bear with one another in love, trusting that He who began a good work in us is well able to complete it.
By His grace, God “conforms us” to the death of His Son (Phil. 3:10). We die to our own ideas of changing the world and are made alive to the transformation that Jesus works in us.
Which, as it happens, changes everything.