What Is the Biblical Perspective on Change?
On one hand, resistance to change in the religious realm makes sense. Remaining true to at least the essentials of one’s religious beliefs stands as a mark of faithfulness (although agreeing on what is an “essential” almost inevitably results in disagreement). On another level, however, one could argue that change is at the heart of the biblical message.
The Bible does not typically use the word “change.” It centers instead on the rich theological vocabulary behind “re” language such as rebirth, renewal, restoration, redemption, reconciliation, repentance. These words certainly signal change, though, and dramatic change at that.
Such language helps to address the ever-relevant question regarding change: Why? The words above share the assumption that: 1)God’s original creation has been damaged by sin; 2)God is at work to overcome this damage; 3)God has invited us to participate in his work. These realities call for change on three levels.
On an individual or personal level, this change means that God has made it possible to heal our broken relationship with him. Part of this healing involves an ongoing process of rediscovering what it means to fulfill our high calling to “image” him within his creation.
On a corporate level, God’s change language means that we have the capacity to heal broken human relationships and build healthier ones. It means that we can live in authentic community that bears witness to God’s ideal for community.
On a cosmic level, the biblical vocabulary for change envisions the extension of God’s work to the entire creation. The individual and corporate life of followers of Jesus impacts even this arena as God “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
Each of these areas, of course, requires further elaboration. For the moment, it is enough to acknowledge how far God’s creation – including humanity – has fallen from its original glory and how long is the journey back. We human beings, who often resist change – and are the only part of the creation with much capacity to do so – introduced the fall. We also remain the only part of the creation honored by God to join in his counteractive response to the fall.
In the end, and even now, God is the mover of this grand story. If we are to answer his gracious call to join him, we cannot follow the general pattern of human history. Arguably, we cannot even follow the general pattern of church history. In the journey from the present to God’s promised future, change is a given, but what does it look like, and how do we get there? What are the primary obstacles in our path?