Many of us have a deep sense that the world is not as it should be. Broken relationships. Divided communities. Poverty and violence in our neighborhoods. The good news is that God longs to restore things to the way they were intended to be. And He wants to do that through His people. He wants to do it through you and me. And it’s with joy that we take part in this mandate of restoration. Through Christ-centered service, we strive towards spreading hope and healing in our communities, and are given a front-row seat to watching His power change hearts and minds.
As we work towards creating change though, we are often frustrated at how slowly it comes – incremental and even imperceptible. Sometimes this frustration leads to Adventists longing for the Lord will return and bring the pain and suffering to an abrupt end. But that isn’t how change happens. Or, at least, not the kind of change I think we’re looking for.
From the beginning of Christianity, there has been an impatience about the rate of growth and change taking place. So much so that it had to be addressed by Paul early on. In his letter to the Galatians (6:9) Paul tells us not to “become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch writes that there’s an inverse relationship between the speed of change and its longevity. Think of fashions that cycle and vary with no trend, or lasting impact. By contrast, slow, deliberate changes have the greatest longevity and consequence.
This can take years, sometimes decades, and even generations. So Christians are cautioned not to grow weary for good reason. The resurrection of Jesus was the greatest game changer in history. But a week after that momentous event those closest to Jesus were still sequestered in fear. But, slowly – over centuries – that event has been changing the world. Gradually snowballing into a movement and rippling geographically and chronographically from that epicenter to encompass the world and penetrate hearts.
So while we wish for revival and the promised restoration, we temper our impatience with people’s understanding that what we want is a lasting and impactful change. Not change that makes for impressive statistic or looks good in the constituency reports. But true changes that take root in people lives, in the lives of communities and will slowly change the trajectory of earth’s history. We are in it for the long-haul, so, we persist in following God and doing good in His name.
Ironically, though, as much as we grow tired of the pain and suffering around us. We also grow tired of change. Change that, at some point, forces recognition of our own prejudices and failures – both as a church and personally. Change that will unseat the balance of power many of us enjoy. Change that, if we’re truly successful, means that, not only will the world around us be different, but the world inside us will be different, too. Sometimes I’m part of the problem and the change must come from within me, within my communities and within my church.
In an age that is growing increasingly divided we must not weary of the pursuit of change. Change that brings the kingdom of God to life in hearts and minds. Change that sees relationships mended, communities united, peaceful neighborhoods and people reconciled to their Father. Change towards Biblical justice.
Christians strive towards long-term and fixed change. But we also long for complete change. While we long to see the end of pain and hopelessness today, we persist in a slow and steady march towards the restoration of this world into the likeness of God. Don’t give up, don’t grow weary.
Colette Newer is the Outreach Ministries Director for the Washington Conference