Summary: Change is possible...we can be different.
I. The Possibility of Change
A. Two Questions
I’d like to ask you two questions this morning, and the first question is this:
Have you ever gotten up and wished things could be different? I mean, have you ever thought about some problem in your building, your neighborhood, in your community…and wished that it could change? Well, it can. Bad things can be changed. Difficult circumstances can be changed for good. Things that look hopeless can sometimes be altered entirely when they are met with people who bring an infusion of hope.
You see, people can make a difference. You might think that’s a strange statement to open a Sunday morning message with, but its true none-the-less. People can make a difference. You can bring change…good and lasting change…to your world and the world around you. You can be a change-agent!
Stories abound of those people who grew tired of things as they were, and decided that they were going to help make things different…better. There are neighborhoods in cities that were havens of drugs, riddled with violence…and then ordinary people got sick and tired of things as they were. I read of one grandmother who began to plant flowers outside of her home…of citizens who began to scrub graffiti from walls…even of groups of citizens who began putting reverse pressure on drug dealers, eventually driving them out. And in all of the stories like these I’m left with a feeling of hope, and a feeling of certainty that people can make a difference. You can be a change-agent!
Being a change agent is a power that’s granted by God. When God first created humanity, He gave to human beings authority over their environment. That authority means that human beings are granted the right and responsibility by God to effect change in their world. Bringing change is nothing less than humanity’s manifestation of the creative power of God…it is us exercising the vestigial remnants of the Divine nature that created us. The desire to change things and the ability to engage ourselves in the process of change is God given. People can make a difference, and you can be a change-agent.
Now I’d like to ask you the second question. It’s similar to the first, only the focus of the question is different. I’ve already asked you if you’ve ever wished things could be different, if you’ve ever wished that things could change. Now I’d like to ask you this:
Have you ever gotten up in the morning and wished that you could be different? Have you ever experienced the realization that you weren’t very happy with yourself as you were, and that there were things you wanted desperately to alter about your life? Have you ever reached the place where you looked yourself in the mirror and thought, “I don’t like you very much. I don’t like the person you’ve become. I don’t like the way you act. I don’t like the way you treat other people. And I don’t like the way you feel inside.” Have you ever looked yourself in the mirror and wished that you could change?
Now I don’t know most of you very well at all. I can’t read your minds, and I make no profession to speak prophetically about this. But I am pretty familiar with human nature, and I could hazard a guess that most of us at some time or other have deeply wished that we could be different, that we could change.
B. Mixed Messages
But one of the great frustrations of this desire is that we are constantly inundated by mixed messages about the subject of change. On one hand we’re told constantly of the value of our contribution, how we can be change agents, and of how we can make a difference. Community associations, non-governmental organizations, social agencies, and religious groups all rely in large part on volunteers to conduct their operations. And these volunteers are often motivated by this powerful message of hope; you can make a difference!
On the other hand, we receive this other signal loud and clear; it’s the signal that tells you that you…you as a person…CAN’T change. Whatever changes that groups or individuals can effect in the world around them, whatever alterations that people can make in their environment, that the most significant and important change of all is denied to us. We’re told that the ability to change ourselves, to alter our own natures, is beyond us. We’re told that while we can and should bring needed change to our external world when the circumstances demand it, our fundamental natures are beyond any such action.
It’s just another extension of the old debate between free will and scientific determinism. And the frustrating, hopeless, and cynical balance we seem to have struck is that while we are free to change our environment, we remain forever bound to genetic predispositions and societal influences when it comes to changing ourselves. Things may be different, but you will never really be different. Things may change, but you can’t.