Have you noticed that the roses in your garden grow gradually, but they blossom suddenly – first a rosebud, and then a full bloom. Of course, we know in advance that a rose bush will produce roses. But the thrilling thing about a human life is that you never know what it might produce, once it blossoms out.
Some years ago in Italy, there was a young man from a wealthy family. He had every opportunity to be spoiled and selfish, and lead a life of ease and luxury. But one day he made a decision and acted upon it. Reconciling all of his riches, becoming a voluntary pauper, he utterly devoted himself to serving the poor. And with nothing but his faith and the strength of his character, St. Francis rocked the Christian world of his day. So do not say such things never happen, because history tells us that they do.
Remember also that St. Paul himself is an example of the possibility of changed character. He started out by persecuting the early church. He hated the name of Christ and was determined to wipe it from the face of the earth. Then one day he had an experience of Christ on the road to Damascus, after which nothing was the same. I am sure he was thinking of that when he wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
There is an old saying that every man has three characters – first is the one he really has, then the one he thinks he has, and then the one other people thinks he has. But let that person come under the influence of Christ and a fourth must be added – the character which God knows he can have.
We all recognize that change is a part of life. But let us also consider that we never know what the effect of a new friendship or any new relationship might be.
All of us are aware of that. A student comes under the influence of a new teacher who somehow sparks his desire to learn; and after that his schooling takes on a totally new meaning. A slothful young man meets a strong and fine young woman, and everything about him changes, even the way he looks. Is there anyone of us so blind or misfortunate that we could not name at least one friend who has influenced our life for good?
I wish we could understand our Christian faith in terms just as real and as personal as that. Christianity across the centuries has become a vast system of institutions. These, too, are necessary and important. But at the beginning Christianity was primarily a friendship with Jesus. Jesus walked into a few people’s lives and became their friend.
When we put a relationship with Jesus in the picture, we discover that it is the most transforming power that can take hold of us and that it brings us a new understanding of who we are. And when it comes to that, our Christian gospel is the great revealer. “Children of God,” it calls us. If that is who we are, we have no business living low and defeated lives.
Of course, we have a hard time thinking of ourselves that way. We think of some of the things we have done, of some of the attitudes we have shown; and we don’t feel like children of God. But don’t leave Christ out of the picture; don’t forget His power to bring out the best. Remember St. Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old order has passed away; now all is new.”