“Perhaps the greatest obstacle to human transformation isn’t our inability to change but the unwillingness of others to believe our transformation is possible.” – Philip Gulley
I overheard someone recently talking about a man I once knew. They were describing him as a wonderful man, generous, humble, caring, and just an all-’round nice guy. When I discovered about whom they were speaking, I was astounded. Somewhere in the distant past I remembered him being a heavy drinker, able to swear up a storm (when drunk) but otherwise (eerily) aloof. I had recollections of gossip that had been circulating about the person in question spending time in newsagents, drooling over pictures of who-knows-what in men’s quasi-pornographic magazines. This man didn’t care much for his family, he would be the type society would expect to be lurking just outside school grounds–not one who would ever darken the door of a church.
I would never have believed this man could have changed, especially so dramatically.
How often is it that we come across a person many years after we first met them and find out they are a totally different person than we remembered?
St Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about those who were immoral, swindlers, drunkards, prostitutes, pedophiles.slanderers, greed-driven extortioners. What he says next may surprise anyone who knew them as such:
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Coritnthians 6:11, TNIV)
He testifies to the change in them. People who met them today wouldn’t know they were once an addict, once a sex worker, once an embezzler. They have been cleansed of their past. An encounter with the living God has changed them and changed their identity.
Imagine with me how our world would be truly transformed if we find ourselves willing to admit this fact and recognise this awesome potential in every person we come across every day.
Imagine how we would live in a world where judgement is replaced by a deep awareness of the possibility that the person we are condemning may one day be a genuinely remarkable human being with a heart of compassion, grace and humility. Imagine a world where forgiveness flows freely and love replaces fear and disdain because we realise that we are all broken people who are, in some way, on the path to renewal.
Imagine if we realised fully how capable we ourselves are of change. Maybe–just possibly–we need to change before we’ll truly see this potential in others.