Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jesus – Unchanging and Unchangeable

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

~Hebrews 13:8 (NRSV).

Stubbornness is never something we proudly claim as our own, though we’re all prone to it. Only recently my wife highlighted to me an area of my own stubbornness and my default response was to quite vigorously deny it. But as I looked deeper into the matter I had to see it was true. For all of us, stubbornness is an area to work on, if we should accept that challenge.

There is also another challenge we should consider accepting.

But, first, let’s look at the unchanging and unchangeable character of the Saviour—our Lord Jesus Christ—who is ‘stubborn’ (immovable) in an entirely holy (sinless), righteous and just way.

Immutability Theology

If we’re to claim that Jesus is unchanging and unchangeable—and that his life, death, resurrection and ascension were planned by God from ‘the beginning’ (however we imagine it)—then we have to imagine a God that is somehow impassive or not moved emotionally. This is for good instance as far as our relationships with God are concerned.

(I’m using “moved” in the context of changeability here; not in the ‘emotionally-moved’ context, for we know God is emotionally moved by our pain.)

It makes sense that God is not swayed by our petitions so much as it is the nature of God is to make situations reach just outcomes eventually. This involves the component of God’s character that we associate as Wisdom—the way life generally works out.

Still, we’ll struggle, naturally, with the concept of God’s changeability so far as the unfolding plan of life is concerned. Some things about God cannot be explained.

Some may struggle with the fact that God will not respond to our emotional pleas by changing our circumstances. Many, many people have run from God for this very fact. And many will continue to do this.

And, still, God empathises with our plight. Jesus, the man, the one who is also God, wept (John 11:35). He felt emotions.

So, how do we reconcile this unchanging and unchangeable nature of God as both impassive as life flows and also able to feel our pain?

Perhaps God empathises but cannot and will not change his divine plans. This is actually a very good thing for all of us, for God promises security for those who follow him, so we trust God’s plan as it is revealed. It is a secure plan.

Mimicking God

It is our challenge, should we choose to accept it, to epitomise our Lord.

This is discipleship—to follow after someone. If we call ourselves disciples of the Lord Jesus we’re then to adopt his character as it’s revealed for us to do this.

Jesus character is unchanging and unchangeable. So, how do we apply that to our lives?

Whilst the world and those who are worldly often appear very malleable, i.e. moveable unto moral compromise, we’re to be encouraged to remain unchanging and unchangeable so far as our commitment to truth and grace is concerned. This is not the same as stubbornness.

As truth, justice, righteousness and fairness ideals present themselves we’ll all be tempted to buckle and compromise. It is a Christlike thing to remain ‘as is’ despite calls to the contrary—provided we use God’s wisdom and discernment around what and how to exercise this indelible commitment to God to.

Wisdom splits away stubbornness, as it presents as a wholly reliable portion of holiness. As situations tempt us to change and to give in to pressure, self-talk, the in-crowd flow etc, we’re commended for grinning through it—if we’re informed by God otherwise.

This must always generally be about how we relate personally with God. God’s much more interested in how we’re interacting with life from our own relevance to godliness (our relationship with God) than he is for us to whine about and compare ourselves with others. Others and the world and their impact on us have nothing really to do with it.

Our key challenge is to strive to be the same, respond the same, and react the same—yesterday, today, forever. It’s an ideal. God wants us to be as consistent as we can be, whilst understanding that we have a ‘unchanging’ propensity to be inconsistent.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Further Reading: Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology – Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1998), pp. 305-07.

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