“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)
Why do we accept what we could change and try to change what we should accept?
In the Scripture in Jeremiah, there is an individual trying to change his skin color and an animal trying to eliminate his distinctive markings. In both cases, it was a futile endeavor. But no more futile than some of the changes you and I try to bring about, while overlooking the ones that could, and should, be attempted. I have come to believe that one of the most effective tools in the devil’s bag of tricks is diversion. Picking fruit instead of digging out roots; clinging to tradition instead of standing on Scripture; fashioning excuses instead of “fessin’ up”; you know, straining at gnats and swallowing camels (Matt. 23:24).
I can quickly think of three areas of life where we often find ourselves holding the wrong end of the stick when it comes to change, short changed, if you will. See if you agree.
1. We try to change people instead of ourselves. In the first place, we should all know by now, people resist being changed, especially by someone they know is dead set on changing them. And anyone who would allow someone else to change him or her, without being fully convinced that the change is Biblical (in the case of a Christian) and reasonable and practical for them personally, will be just as easily persuaded in another direction. As the old saying goes, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
So instead of trying to wrestle a friend or loved one into submission to either us or the Lord, why not allow God to bring you and I into submission to His will for us personally? Make no mistake, He never asks any of us to condone or accept unrighteousness in anyone; but He does say, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Pro. 21:1); and if there is ever going to be a change in anyone’s heart, He will be the one to do it.
2. We try to change the Bible instead of our lives. I’m not only speaking of the glut of translations that testify to the determination to make a Bible more palatable to all, or more answerable to the explanation of men. I’m talking about things like women who would rather look for some other passage to refute or even soften words like “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord,” then to simply be submissive to their husbands. If I’m determined to have my own way and the last word in our marriage, Ephesians 5:22 is still there. I’ve merely disobeyed it. I can try to change it or minimize it, or I can work on changing me so that I want to obey it.
3. We can try to change the outside instead of the inside. Salvation is an internal operation that becomes more and more visible on the outside as we allow the Spirit of God to change us. So before I look in the bathroom mirror, I need to look in the mirror of God’s Word. C.S. Lewis said, “We’re a soul with a body, not a body with a soul.” All the outward change in the world will never change the inside; but oh, what a difference a change on the inside can make to the outside!
I think I know why we choose some changes instead of others. It’s easier to try to change someone else instead of ourselves because we instinctively know we’re really not going to be held responsible for him or her. And because we know God will hold us accountable for what we do understand in His Word, we try to obscure what makes us squeamish. And the “hidden man of the heart” that’s the most beautiful ornament a woman can wear (1 Pet. 3:4) will require much more time with God than pious attitude and appearance will take.
Why do we accept what we could (and should) change, and try to change what we should accept?
Because it’s easier.