“Change: Principles vs Methods II”

I hope that you have been blessed through the last few devotionals on change. In many instances, change brings reactions such as: fear, concern, mockery, and resistance. In the spiritual realm, there are individuals and entire communities which oppose change because of some verses found in the Bible which affirm that God never changes (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17). I am grateful to have these verses in the Bible; it is wonderful to have a God whose essence, character, love for us, and principles are eternal. It is awesome to trust someone who does not betray, does not lie, does not tell you one thing today and something else tomorrow. The character of God, His principles, who He is, does not change. However, some confuse principles with methods. The principles are the “what” (the message, the love, the character, the commandments), the methods are the “how”. God’s love for you and me never changes, how He expresses His love for you and for me, the methods He uses, do change. There are many different ways to express your love and who you are, God expresses His unchangeable being and love in many different ways, in different methods. This is a breakthrough that anyone who wishes to have a relevant life, including a relevant spiritual life, must come to. Principles are eternal, they don’t change. Methods, ways of doing things, can change.

Communication is a principle, you need a message, sender, and a receiver. In the past communication was mostly done only face to face, through speech and perhaps gestures. At that time, people who wanted to communicate with someone who lived far away, needed to travel for days. But methods and tools changed: messengers, smoke signals, telegraph, post-office, radio, telephone, television, internet, E-mail, social networks, skype, and texting have made communication more available and effective. Today, just about anyone who owns a computer can be a journalist. You and I can communicate with anyone in the world, within seconds, without having to travel.

Proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples throughout the world is a mandate of Jesus, it is called the great commission  and it is a principle. God also left us other principles in the Bible. How can we spread the love of Jesus, His principles, and make disciples? What methods and tools can we employ? Through history there have been many used effectively: for a long time it was done only through verbal proclamation (talking to your kids and friends and passing it on to the next generation, preaching to crowds, different types of preaching, teaching, knocking on doors, one on one Bible studies, small groups); then there was writing (Scripture was written by hand and then came the press which made the proclamation of the Gospel more effective, with Bible distribution people could just read it), musical proclamation through songs and musical presentations (solos, duets, quartets, choirs, orchestras, bands, accapella groups), and of course technology also came in to aid us in letting others know about Jesus. When William Fagal and H. M. S. Richards, the Adventist pioneers of radio ministry, starting using the radio to spread the gospel they were very much criticized. Some went even to the extend of suggesting that they were being used by someone else rather than God, just because they were using a new method to proclaim the Gospel. Today Jesus is proclaimed through billboards, cassettes, video tapes, CDs, DVDs, radio, TV, internet, on demand, live-streaming, on the Social Networks, through texting. The principle has not changed, the methods and the tools have multiplied.

On His way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus passed by Sychar, a city in Samaria. He was a little tired and He sat by a well. On His quest to spread His unchanging love and mercy, He used an approach, a new method, which in His time was totally radical and surprised many, including His own disciples:

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” (John 4:7-9)

A Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman was a new approach, Jesus had given one on one Bible studies before, but not at a well, and not with a woman, and much less with a Samaritan woman, that just did not happen at the time, till Jesus had the courage to break the mold and give us the example. Staying at the home of a tax collector and eating with him (Zacchaeus) was also a new approach to evangelism, which just did not happen in Jesus’ time, till He broke the mold and had the courage to use a new method (Luke 19:1-9).

Is there a place for older methods? Of course, there are many methods that transcend age and time, which are still appropriate under certain circumstances today. Is there a place for new methods? You bet, new methods and new tools which help us to be more relevant and effective spreading the love and hope of Jesus are very beneficial for us as Christians. New methods can be very beneficial to humanity as well, if used for our benefit. Whenever I see a new method and a new tool, rather than criticizing it and trying to knock it right away, I look to see how I can best use it to spread Jesus and His unchangeable loving principles. You know what? There is someone else who is always looking for new methods, and his intentions are not good, he wants to use them for evil. We don’t want him to have an edge on us, good existed before evil.

Prayer: Jesus, please give the courage to do some bold things like you did in your time to reach others with hope and make my community and surroundings a better place. Thank you for your example. AMEN.