“Have you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24)
At some point every leader faces this question. Sometimes it is asked by detractors. Other times it is asked by a leader’s most supportive constituents. Implementing and sustaining change can be incredibly difficult, and most people resist it even when it good for them. That is probably why most New Year’s resolutions have already failed and it isn’t even February yet.
I wonder why this is.
1. Perhaps the goals of change are so far out of reach they seem impossible to achieve. For example, we often say things such as, “This year I am going to lose 50lbs” without a tangible incremental plan to get there. Rather than do what we need to do to lose the weight – we instead lose interest, undermine our best intentions and get discouraged by our inability to follow-through on what we know would be beneficial to us.
2. Or, perhaps we believe that we are too set in our ways to see or do things another way than what we already know. In a former parish I once had someone confront me in the line to shake hands after worship who said, “I don’t like change. I come to church to reinforce everything I already think about things.” I probably should have bit my tongue, but I responded, “Wow. How boring for you.”
3. The more I think about it, what I believe prevents change most of all is our inability to visualize the outcome we are hoping to reach. One of the reasons Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is so powerful to me is not his call against the racial injustice of his time but providing an oratory picture of what life would be like in my own time if people regarded each other primarily by the content of their character. I want to live in the world he envisioned then; because he helps me see it for myself now.Part of what Mark is doing by showing us so many stories of Jesus healing people in the early chapters of his gospel is to give us a new perspective of what “good news” and “God’s reign” might look like in our own time. Jesus heals and restores the outcast, the sick, the possessed, the unforgivable, the shamed and the forgotten people around him, and in doing so asks us to see the people we so often overlook around us. He is resisted by those who are perfectly fine with their lives under the status quo. Mark will show us in his storytelling that those powers are eager to destroy Jesus and the good news he brings rather than see their world change.
How about us?
We often pine for more people and more resources in our churches by keeping things exactly as they are or by asking new people to become more like us.
Ask yourself: “How is that strategy working?”
See how Jesus brings good news: one encounter at a time; one conversation at a time; one relationship at a time. It is often uncomfortable. It is often with people considered unworthy by everybody else. It often calls into question our own base assumptions about the way things are (or could be) as he brings something new to our lives.
“Have you come to destroy us?” is a very good question in Jesus’ time as well as our own.
What if the answer was ‘yes?’