The person you have working for you simply does not meet your expectations. Your children are not following the path you know is best for them. Your church leaders seem to be taking the congregation down a path that makes you uneasy. Your best friend supports a political candidate that you do not trust. Your spouse does not connect with you the way you once enjoyed. Your job has you feeling you will never get the satisfaction you desire. The debt collectors are demanding more than you have to give. You look in the mirror and simply do not like what you see. Your mind is clouded with half-started projects, the clutter of everyday life to the point where you simply do not know what to do. In simple terms, you know that something needs to change.
In one way or another, every one of us can identify with at least one of these statements. It is part of our human nature to see things around us that we believe are not right and urgently desire to fix them. Our responses may vary, depending on the situation, but they all reflect our growing sense of frustration.
Some may micromanage others and dictate to them their every move, thought, or action in order to correct their errors and fundamentally bring about the desired change. Perhaps, amid the frustration and anxiety of the moment, we get angry. In that case perhaps we verbally, or in extreme cases, physically chastise the person we want to change in hopes of making them realize their wrong and motivate them for future change. In the opposite extreme, we simply give up on the individual and begrudgingly do it ourselves with the belief that it is really the only way to get things done right.
In another case, if the problem is within our own lives, it is easy to blame. Blame others for or problems, blame the job for our discouragement, blame the boss for being a jerk, blame the world for being unfair, or simply sulk in anger because it seems as if all the cosmic forces are working against me and my happiness. The result is bitterness and depression.
All of these approaches may have their place to a point. In all honestly, we have probably all used these approaches at some time or another. We use these methods because they have been used on us and a large part of our society has taught us that this is the way to effect the change we want in life. It is a change brought on by force, anger, manipulation, blame, and control. Sometimes it works; frequently, it does not. In the worst case scenario, it may actually bring about the very opposite result. Rather than positive change, it fosters negative rebellion and mires us in the mud of despair.
A powerful model for change is Jesus Christ. Clearly, when he spent three years preaching and teaching, change and transformation was a significant part of his message. Without any disrespect to the rich Jewish traditions from which he came, Jesus called his followers to change to a new way of being. Rather than blindly adopting and applying arbitrary rules of a religion, Jesus encouraged positive change that transcended religious purity and fidelity. Jesus was about relationship.
His method of affecting change, however, was never one of coercion or force. When Jesus corrected another or pointed out the wrongs and evils of the world in which he lived, he did so with compassion and grace. Most importantly, Jesus never required anybody to change, only gave the example, empowered them with the tools, offered the means to use his strength for the process, and valued the individual enough to let them rise or fall on their own terms. Finally, Jesus never blamed his problems on others, but took full accountability for himself.
Too often we forget this subtle reality of Jesus’ dynamic leadership. In churches we run the dangerous risk of forcing our doctrine on others because we know we are right and want them to change according to what we dictate to them. In the midst of this power-trip that we call the church, the Gospel is sacrificed in the name of doctrine.
The model of Christ in making needed and Godly change in the world is one of loving service, humble prayer, and faithful obedience—not control, domination, or blame. As Christians, let us all seek to serve out of love and bring about much-needed change through Jesus rather than our doctrinal control.