January 1, 2024
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Class reunions are always enlightening, and one thing is obvious after 20 years - people change. Yeah! I was a pretty big boy back in high school. I mean, there were a lot of pounds on this boy, but not quite as many when I went to that reunion. And, you know what? I'm glad they saw the new me. Less of me!
And then there are those changes that aren't always positive that you see in people. You know that athletic hunk you knew in high school who's kind of gone to seed a little bit, or that beautiful bombshell who's... changed, shall we say. Or that great head of hair that's now just a great head. But sometimes it's a pleasant surprise to see how people have changed in positive ways. People do change, and if we're not careful we'll still be thinking of them as they were - not as they are.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Allowing People to Change."
Now, our word for today from the Word of God is found in Acts 9:26-28. A man that they almost froze in time. Saul of Tarsus has been, as you may remember, a violent persecutor of Christians. And then dramatically, in a blaze of light, he meets Christ on the road to Damascus. Well you can imagine how the early Christians must have greeted him when he showed up, because they figured he was the "hit man" coming for them.
Verse 26: "When he came to Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him." Well, I can understand that. "...not believing," it says, "that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the disciples. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord." Now, it looks like at the early part of this account that the Christians had Saul in a category. Saul is the enemy; Saul hates Christians. But much to their surprise, not anymore! God has changed him.
You know, this incident underscores a tendency that we all have - we tend to freeze people in time. You know, we remember how they were and assume they're still that way today. We sized up this man or woman some time ago; we know what they were like. And we won't allow them the privilege of having changed. "Oh yeah, he's lazy." "Oh yeah, she's always irresponsible. She never keeps her promises." "Oh yeah, you can't trust him. He's always deceitful." "She uses people." "He's got a real problem." See, the human mind puts a person into a category and then closes the door on that category. But see, he's changing and we can't close the door.
Sometimes we won't see the changes, even in our families. We tend to see the weakness in our mate, or our child, or our parent. But we can't see the changes that they're trying to make. They're growing! Sometimes we even discourage them by expecting and noticing the worst in them all the time. The things they used to do, let's say, nine out of ten things wrong in a given area. Now they're only doing five out of ten wrong. But we only see the bad five, because we froze them in time. We underestimate the life-changing power of the grace of Almighty God. He is changing His children. We have to allow for it, give them a chance to change, encourage the change, notice the change.
The early Christians gave Saul a chance and I'm so glad they did. Let's expect the best of each other. Not because we trust each other. That's not it so much, but because we trust the transforming power of our Father's grace. Stay up-to-date on what God is doing in the life of that person near you, and don't leave them frozen in time.