The truth is, Christians can change their outer actions through spiritual discipline but they cannot transform their inner spirits so they can say with St. Paul, “No longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.” Jesus had to die and rise again to save us from our selves, from the slavery of sin. So why does Jesus tell us:
“In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Since I was surrounded by lots of little people for years, I like to keep things simple. However, when it comes to understanding Holy Scripture, we must turn to the Church and to Scripture scholars to help us discern the truth of what Christ is actually trying to teach us.
The Word “Change” is Passive
Instead of the word change, some Scripture translations use the word convert; some use the word turn. The Greek word for turn or change (στρέφω strephō) is in the passive voice (straphēte).
This seemingly tiny difference, from active to passive voice, has huge consequences because it means God must be the one who changes us. Christians cannot convert or change or turn ourselves and become like little children on our own. Spiritual transformation does not happen when a disciple of Christ grits their teeth and tries to force change.
It is imperative that Christians acknowledge they are powerless to change. Our only hope is to ask the Father to convert our hearts just like a small child asks their daddy to help them.
It is humbling to beg for forgiveness, to admit we have been blinded by worldly attitudes which value strength and independence.
We have to repent and admit attempts to change our very nature through sheer will power is an exercise in futility. Trust me, I have tried. After years, reality finally shattered the delusional concepts of my own holiness and I threw myself at Christ’s feet.
I had realized I was an utter failure in my self-prescribed role as a personal saviour and healer.
One day while I was praying, I sensed the Father correct me:
You think you are building my kingdom with all your spiritual activity
But you are hindering the work of my Holy Spirit
All I want, all I need
Is for you to stand at the foot of the cross, look up at my Son
Allow the fire of His love to pierce your heart,
Flow through you and you will set the world on fire.
I did not realize it at the time but these words were an echo of St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Copyright 2019 Melanie Jean Juneau