People change, but can they be transformed? Change in a human being may be for the better or worse. Transformation, or conversion, is always for the better, and it is radical. The most significant, if not the only transformation, has to do with conforming to Jesus Christ. Only by God’s grace is this possible. The person is turned from following a wicked path to the way of the pilgrim headed toward the kingdom of God. Those who are converted will shine like the sun in the kingdom. (Matthew 13: 43)
But, is it really possible? People seem to languish in habits from one year to the next. Negative character traits seem impossible to change. As people grow older, they become confirmed in the disagreeable aspects of their personalities. Are conversion and transformation impossibilities? Is the power of the Holy Spirit weaker than our own sinfulness?
I have seen transformation, as much as one can see without perceiving the heart. It does exist. The Holy Spirit is at work. This transformation in a human being is the most epic of stories. It is the specific story of each person who is transformed in the context of salvation history, the story of God’s saving work among human beings in the world.
Transformation does not mean perfection that is not possible in this life. Even the one being transformed must confess sin everyday until he/she dies and is born into the kingdom. But, transformation, or conversion, is a setting upon a certain path directed toward the New Jerusalem. It reveals itself along the way by faithful worship of the Lord and fruits directed toward the neighbor. It is born of God’s transforming power. It is aligned with God’s work in the world. While at times, a believer may grow weary, yet he comes through all things as a believer and disciple.
The Christian that serves the Lord as a disciple always sees his witness and defense as an opportunity for the conversion of others. What we say is God’s Word as long as it conforms to the apostolic teaching, the rule of faith. We must also behave in a way that reflects our faith and reveals faithfulness to the Lord. Conversion of others is always a possibility in whatever context. We are called to go about this work wherever we may be and in whatever circumstances.
Michael G. Tavella
March 3, 2020