JESUS CHANGES LIVES
"Jesus changes lives!" This statement connects at the deepest level with those who follow Jesus because it captures the essence of our experience with him. Virtually everyone who follows Jesus knows that at some level their life has been transformed by him. The first followers made this affirmation, and their conviction has been shared by subsequent believers for centuries. The experience, however, varies dramatically from one follower to the next and this has always been the case. So varied is the experience that the writers of the New Testament, the 1st-Century document written by early followers and companions of Jesus, employs as many as twenty different ways of picturing this transformation. For some, meeting Jesus was like stepping out of darkness into the light. For others, it was like being set free from bondage. For still others, it was the experience of having broken relationships mended and restored--including their relationship with God himself. For some, it was a sense of being cleansed from moral impurity; for others, a realization of being set apart for a holy and divine purpose. Some disciples (the term used to designate those who followed Jesus) felt they had passed from a life of defeat to one of victory. Many felt a deep acceptance by God where once they had sensed only judgement and condemnation. There was for others an experience of purpose where there had once been only futility. A dramatic sense of having been transferred from death to life characterized the experience of others.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it reflects the wide range of experience felt by followers of Jesus--but there are some important common elements. For the New Testament writers, all these changes came about through an encounter with Jesus and came to be seen as the direct result of what he did through his death on the cross and through his resurrection. The statement, "Jesus changes lives" reflects this amazing tapestry of experience as well as the conviction that people who meet Jesus today continue to have their lives changed. The tapestry also means that Jesus meets people where they are and they experience his transformation in ways that are deeply personal for them and deeply connected to their own experience of brokenness. It's not surprising, then, that for many who follow Jesus, the most gracious thing they can do for a human being is to introduce her or him to Jesus. But knowing this Jesus who dramatically changes lives also motivates many of his followers to be involved in other forms of change that lie within the capacity of our own actions. God is in the business of changing lives and circumstances through Jesus and he invites us to join him in the work of Change. Some things only God can do, but many acts of change can be embraced by us. GRI believes God acts to alleviate suffering and that he invites us to join our actions to his.
- Gerald Wright