People can be changed. Notice that I didn’t say: People can change. There is a big difference. It is true that a leopard can’t change its spots. But leopards and people can and will be changed by forces in their lives. Left to our own devices we all seek food, shelter, clothing, safety, community, meaning and love. The act of seeking these things, experiencing these things, being hurt by these things and accomplishing these things will change us. Life won’t change your spots but it will directly influence how you and others see your spots.
You are being transformed, right in this very instant, by the forces that are operating in your life. You are being transformed by where you live, how you live, the cultural context in which you live, the love you experience or the lack of love you experience. You are being transformed by your personal, professional, casual, political, romantic, and mentoring relationships. You are being transformed by your faith in Jesus. You are being transformed by the endless information you input from all of these sources and more. Your mother was right when she cautioned you, at a very young age: Garbage in, garbage out.
Right now, you might be thinking that all of this isn’t true. You might be thinking that people are people and people never change. Bad people will always be bad and good people will always be good. Well, guess what. You believe that because of the forces in your life that have taught you to believe it.
Now don’t get discouraged, because you are definitely not alone in this reality. In the one simple thought, that people never change, you have summed up the driving force behind our criminal justice system, our socio-economic and racial inequities, our political system and labor practices, just to name a few. As a culture we have been taught that there are “haves” and “have-nots” and there is nothing that can be done about it. You just better pray that you are a “have”!
It is strange that our culture believes that people never change. For all of us know about the power of peer pressure. All of us know what it is like to change our behaviors and our routines, just so we can fit in and be accepted. All of us know the norms of expectations and the wrath that befalls those who make the choice, either willingly or out of ignorance, not to live into those expectations. All of us know how much it hurts to be relegated to the corners, to the back rooms and back rows of the world simply because of what the culture deems to be acceptable. Yet, even in acknowledging all of this, we still find ourselves living in a world that operates under the perspective that people don’t change.
Well, today I invite you to be open to a new possibility: People can be changed. I invite you to be open to what embracing this possibility will do in your relationships with others and with the world around you. I invite you to be open to what embracing this possibility will do in your relationship with Jesus. I invite you to embrace this possibility as you are watching the news or talking with your neighbor. I invite you to embrace this possibility as you are raising your kids or grandkids. I invite you to embrace this possibility at work, in your church, in your school, in your neighborhood. Embrace the possibility that people can be changed by the forces that impact their everyday lives. Oh, and by the way, you are one of those forces that impact someone else’s everyday life!