Giving change a chance

Published 6:27 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

– Mary Shelley in “Frankenstein”

By Nathan Decker

I am a creature of habit. Given the choice, I like Coke over Pepsi. I typically order the same food at my preferred Mexican restaurant. I put the same leg in first when putting on my pants. Every Friday, I call my mom and dad. My running routes, my driving routes, where I sit down in a crowded room, when I wake up and when I go to sleep are all punctual predictable patterns. We all live in established patterns or habits. Even though these patterns are set, change is possible in life, but it is hard.

Just ask my dad. My dad is an alcoholic. When he got off his shift on the railroad, he would come home and sit in his chair and drink himself into slumber. I remember in fifth grade when he went into rehab. The only time I’ve ever seen him cry was at funerals and when we visited him as a part of his treatment to get sober. He told us it was because he missed us. He later told me it was also because without the alcohol, he had to face fears, pain and life. He changed, but he also stayed the same. He’s still my dad.

Just ask Paul. In the Bible, Paul was a Pharisee’s Pharisee. He held the coats and watched as Deacon Stephen was stoned for preaching about Jesus. He knew the law and was zealous about getting rid of this new batch of Jews who foolishly followed the teachings of Jesus. He gathered up leaders of the Christians in Jerusalem to put them on trial and persecute them. He volunteered to go to Damascus to do the same there. But then he changed. Along the way he encountered Jesus. Ananais welcomed him and helped him regain his sight, both spiritually and physically. He changed, but he also stayed the same. Paul was just as zealous as a Christian as he was a Pharisee.

People can change. It’s hard to believe. We rarely see examples. Our society is not built for change, preferring the comfortable confines of status quo. Yet, people can and do change. How? Through the amazing power of forgiveness.

Forgiveness empowers us to be who we are in Christ. Forgiveness empowers us to empower others to be themselves in Christ. My dad experienced forgiveness, and that gave him the strength to get sober. Paul experienced forgiveness, and that gave him the strength to go from persecuting Christians to being persecuted for following Christ. I have experienced forgiveness, and this forgiveness reshapes my vision, my world and my understanding of others.

It’s not easy. I’ve been hurt because I forgave. I have forgiven and people have let me down, turned around, and done the same thing over again. But still, I forgive. I forgive because I have been forgiven. I forgive because I believe people can change. I forgive because it’s who Jesus is in me. As disciples, we have to give forgiveness a chance to work the miracle of change. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

– Matthew 18:21-23

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.