Sunday, January 20, 2013

Change and Falling Short

At church this morning, the pastor preached about the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine, and he said that Jesus performs miracles when he transforms people.

Does Jesus change people?  I don't rule it out.  Or let me say this: I wouldn't be surprised if there are people who change with the assistance of a power greater than themselves.  Is this an experience in which they are passive, or active?  Well, I can't rule out that there are people who experience a passive transformation.  Whether that's long-term or not, I don't know.  Maybe it is for some people, but not for other people.
In twelve-step groups, however, transformation seems to be presented as something that occurs after hard work, even though a higher power is said to play a role.  A person takes a moral inventory, shares it with someone else, and gets feedback.  A person meets with a sponsor to get advice or simply another person's perspective about what he or she is experiencing in life.  A person makes amends to whomever he or she has harmed.  And God puts the person in situations in which he or she can grow.  Or, at times, it is recommended that people place themselves into situations in which they can grow, such as social settings. 

It takes work, not to mention bravery, for people to be so vulnerable.  Many shy away from it.  I'd prefer to do that sort of work within an accepting environment rather than a setting that puts me down, and it's good when one can find such an accepting environment.  But change, for a lot of people, still takes work.  I wish that I could be passive and wait for God to zap me, magically transforming me into a person of character!

I have another point to make: I can easily say that God has made me loving or patient, if I were in a setting in which it's not particularly difficult for me to be loving for patient.  But am I loving or patient in all situations?  Personally, it's not something that I want to stress out about, for I don't think that me beating up on myself is all that productive of an activity.  I wouldn't even feel less-than if I did find it hard to be loving or patient in certain situations (which I do)!  But, because that's the case, I have a hard time bragging that I have arrived, in terms of character.  I fall way short of perfection.  That's not me patting myself on the back for my humility.  It's the way things are.  And I should remind myself of that so that I'm not so quick to judge other people, who themselves fall short.  We're all loved by God.


  1. I relate this to Paul, in Romans, etc. The Law (Torah) was insufficient for sin, so Christ died (and was raised). So, what is the sufficiency of Christ? Is it that we are still the same sort of people as those under Torah, but the Christ event means Christians will not be held to account for their sins. Or, is also a change effected when people become Christians, so that they are not now the kinds of people who sin, or that they have the ability they didn't have before not to sin. And in the latter ('also a change') cases, why is it that they still do sin. And further (in the latter cases), in that they do sin, doesn't this detract from Christ's supposed sufficiency vis a vis Torah, inasmuch as there may be little (none?) practical difference between Christians and how people were, with respect to Christians still committing sins, under Torah.

  2. Those are excellent questions, Davey. Would you say that God still plays some role in helping people to change, rather one calls that Christ giving people a moral edge, or a higher power taking away some of people's character defects, or however one wants to conceptualize it?

  3. "rather one calls that" I don't understand this, ie the grammar, is there a typo?

    Your question, nevertheless seems clear. I would hope that God is on our side, helping us in various ways. But, it doesn't look awfully obvious how God is doing it! Jesus seems to expect Christians to behave better than the Jews did (and seemed to expect the Jews to behave better than they were doing also), but it is not obvious that Christians aren't as much a rabble as ever the Jews were. I believe Christians are to be made perfect in Heaven, but I get the impression Christians were supposed to be a lot better now on Earth than it looks like Christians are - and that the Spirit was supposed to effect this somehow. So, why isn't it happening? Maybe the theology is wrong, and it is more like (my first scenario, in my first post here - we are still the same sort of people as those under Torah) that Christians are told to be better, by Jesus and God, because Christians should be (and everybody else should be), but that Christians really are not any different than the Jews under Torah as to their abilities to be that, it is just that it is not held against Christians in the same way it was held against the Jews. And maybe it was held against the Jews because it was said it would be in Torah, and it is not to be held against Christians because it is said it won't be (here and there). Only that scenario (of no change) doesn't look satisfactory to me, because I was hoping the idea was that actual change would be effected in people when they became Christians (often expounded from Romans Chapter 6, as 'the new man').

    And, though it would be good to conceptualise this right, or get the theology right, it would be even better to find something actually changing in our outlook and behaviour!

  4. Yeah, I meant "whether"! Me and my typos.


Search This Blog