14 April 2021
This article first appeared in the Methodist Recorder on 26th March 2021.
Each Spring time we look around at the signs of new life in nature and it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us – after the cold, bleakness of winter it fills us with hope as we notice the transformation around us. Never more so for me than this Spring after the Covid restrictions of the past few months.
What about transformation in our own lives and the communities around us? We all long to see transformation for the better in our nation and across the world but I believe that true community transformation comes when individual lives and hearts are changed by Jesus. In the Wesleyan revival, the society of the day was very corrupt and there were a lot of ills that needed addressing. As the early Methodists preached the message of the good news of Jesus, gradually individual lives were completely changed and as a result there was a massive impact on their communities.
So before we can begin to seek the transformation of our communities and nations we need to begin with our own relationship with God. As Jesus reminds us in the great commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Firstly, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul and mind’ leading to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ Love for neighbour starts with our own personal love and devotion to God.
God seeks a relationship with each of us through Jesus and then he seeks to transform us into the people he has called us to be. Millions of people have kind hearts and want to help those who are poor or in distress. But when men and women start to follow Jesus earnestly, they discover that deep within them their view of the world is changing. Seeing the world through God’s eyes they recognise that there is an urgent need to change the world so that justice is done and peace is achieved in the way that God desires.
It is only as we follow Jesus and seek God’s heart of compassion for our world can we fully participate in his work of restoring lives and communities – not in our own strength but by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus brings healing and wholeness to our lives, we can ask him to show us what he wants us to do in service to him and others around us. As Jesus says in Luke 6: 43-45:
‘For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of their heart produces good, and the evil person out of their evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart their mouth speaks.’
Transformed individual lives, should naturally lead to transformation in our families, relationships, communities, in the way we treat others, the creation around us and ultimately in the world as a whole as the ripples of God’s love extend further and further.
Sometimes we can be a bit negative about the church and its influence in the world. As I mentioned in my Vice-Presidential speech we all know that there are things the church have done that have not been in line with God’s plan but despite that, the Church has made more changes on earth for good than any other movement or force in history and we need to encourage ourselves sometimes with this history.
The Christian gospel has shaped every area of our lives, yet because its influence is so huge, we often take its heritage for granted. And we can’t sit on our laurels because there is still a lot to be done and a lot of people who need to discover how much God loves them.
God is concerned with making every realm of his creation whole. The kind of religion the Bible advocates is rooted in justice that flows from the heart of God. As those justified by faith in the God of all justice, we are to experience the wholeness that he brings and extend it as citizens of his kingdom.
A life in the hands of Jesus, transformed and restored to wholeness by the power of the Holy Spirit, leads to community transformation as people seek to bring about God’s kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
Someone has said that the church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members – at its heart the church is a body of individual people whose lives have been transformed by the power of God, seeking to show that love and power to the world around them in word and deed.
As we approach Easter and hear again the wonderful story of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we remember again that he is still alive today, and the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to us to do the works he did, and even greater! I pray that each of us will allow God to transform our own hearts and that the fruit of that personal transformation will have an impact for the Kingdom of God in our communities, nation and across the globe.
Carolyn Lawrence, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, 2020-21.