The Love to Change
Friday, February 27, 2015
New Church Perspective in Clark Echols, challenges of the time, change, growth, popular media, repentance

People can and do change, but it't not so glamorous, romantic and spontaneous as movies and books often make it seem. It isn't easy and it isn't always pretty but, as Clark discusses in this week's article, Jesus provided us with many examples and many tools that we need in order to change and grow into our "authentic" selves. Even if that change is so slow it isn't completed in this world. -Editor.

The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” was recently released. While it may seem to be an excellent study of human nature, I will not go see it because any message about positive human change will be quite obscured by the salacious content. The message will be completely missed by most viewers who only want to be titillated (yes that is a word. Go look it up!).

The Word is full of examples of how humans change. Sadly, we are not shown very many examples of it in the various forms of media these days. There are many movies that purport to show how a person learns a lesson about their humanity through experiencing their depravity. While such a book or movie may be an excellent study of human nature, any message about human change is hidden from most readers and viewers who only want to be voyeurs. There are a number of movies that more accurately and appropriately reveal the mechanism of change in human beings. They are not as viscerally exciting because they portray how change really happens: human change is a process that begins within the individual human spirit, when God’s love and wisdom are voluntarily brought to support an individual’s motivation, thought, speech and act.

Jesus repeatedly tells us to obey him, and he repeatedly tells us that his rules begin in the Hebrew Scripture’s Ten Commandments. Jesus never gives us license to “do whatever your heart desires,” because it is our authentic self freely expressed. No, he says: “Do what I say because you love me.” Be your authentic self by living from the truth and real goodness. Make the changes in your mind by welcoming the thoughts God gives you and the feelings that he rewards with delight.

Our “authentic” self develops over time. I vividly remember in my late teens planning to sincerely follow my heart, which, clearly, was leading me to defy all earthly authorities. This is exactly the right response an adolescent has to this very call to action that Jesus gives us. Jesus repeatedly tells us to ignore the commands of people who are simply exercising their love of authority. He repeatedly refers to the religious leaders of his day as wanting only control, luxury and honors. So that is where we begin. Our first, likely rather immature attempts to change, begin with bucking some external circumstance of our life.

And now, as adults with more or less experience in changing, we can understand and use the deeper, more substantial notions within Jesus’ teachings. The love and wisdom of Jesus Christ have their final, most empowered life, in our hearts and our minds, our wills and our spirits, our desires and our intentions. Jesus now incarnates and manifests himself through our desires, thoughts, speech and actions. There are no external circumstances, no outward actions, no verbal confessions that can cause us to have Jesus in our hearts. There is no mere external change that will establish his love and wisdom as our way of being. Although we are commanded to begin by changing some external in our life, the accomplishment of the change is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ to replace our selfishness, our desire for control, our dependence on material things and results, with a wisdom to let go, and the love to go forward.

And it is hard on us individually because it takes time for changes to happen in the physical world; often longer than one lifespan. Spiritual and moral truths have been brought into civil law many times over the millennia. And it takes generations for a culture to change. For instance, slavery was outlawed in the United States in the 1860s. One hundred years later, discrimination by race was outlawed. And now, almost fifty years after that, we are challenging the dominant culture’s reactionary behaviors towards the minority. So while the spiritual and moral principles of the equality of all people are very well established amongst us, it feels like the same “battle” is continuing. In fact there has been a great deal of progress in the manifestation of God’s equal regard for all people in our culture. There is a change happening from the inside out, as God’s love and wisdom are finding more presence in the hearts, minds, and bodies of more and more people. Of course, we all see that there is still work to be done in cooperation with God. All processes of change are messy. Think back to how many times you practiced the change you wanted to be before you got it right.

It helps me to remember what Jesus said: I don’t have to be the teacher, the Right one; I don’t have to be the father, the Boss. As I practice at a life of goodness and truth, my life will be the Teacher and Leader. As I am a servant, my mind will be changed by the grace of God (Matthew 23:8-11).

Clark Echols

Clark is "retired" after thirty-two years of pastoral work, and is now fully engaged as a licensed mental health counselor at Professional Pastoral Counseling Institute in Cincinnati, OH. There are major differences between the two crafts, and he is loving trying to figure them out. He is also a leader in the Ohio Men's Action Network, engaging men and boys in the cultural change necessary to prevent sexual and gender based violence. He irregularly posts at and

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