This is a question that I could answer ‘yes’ to many times. While we did not change church families too often (my Dad being the pastor), we did move house quite often, so much so that I cannot recall how many homes I have now called ‘home.’ But on last count I attended six different public schools (in two different nations), three different high schools (in three different towns/cities), one college and two universities. And since then, I continue the life as a nomad, now into my third locale with wife and family. So yes, I have moved, and got quite good at it! In fact I now have little patience when helping others move who don’t know how it is to be done. Ever heard of boxes?
But the question put to the congregation recently (actually four congregations as we enjoyed a joint service together) was not ‘have you moved house?’ It was really ‘has your soul moved?’ As Christians we are led by the Spirit of God: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” Galatians 5:25 (NIV). As we are led by the Spirit of God, we should expect to see change in our character: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV). Now sometimes this strikes Christians as being somehow either unrealistic, or unfair. “We can’t expect people to be perfect.” “We should accept people just as they are.” “People cannot change, nor should we ask them to.” That kind of thing. True enough, we accept people just as they are, but we should be asking ourselves, and each other if we are really watching out for one another, ‘have we moved?’ Have we seen a change in character? Is it evident to others, so evident it is like fruit on a tree, easily visible, and attractive not to mention life giving?
Yes we accept people as they are, but we can no more be led by the Spirit of God and remain the same, than the Israelites could be led by the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night and remain in Egypt* (see the book of Exodus!). If we are led, we are moving. If we are not moving, it is not because God has stopped leading us, it is because we have stopped following. Perhaps we like Egypt too much. Perhaps we have found a comfy spot in the wilderness short of the promised land and have decided to settle in the desert. Perhaps we mistakenly thought we were being baptized in the Jordan, with the promised land just over there easily within reach, when really we were baptized back in the Nile, with quite the journey ahead of us.
There is a Spirit-led journey ahead of each of us. And I don’t believe any of us ever really reach the ‘promised land’ of Christ-like character in this lifetime. But the question is not “have you arrived?” The Lord knows I have not. My wife knows too. And so do those who need my help moving and who have not packed properly, as previously mentioned. The question is ‘have you moved?’ Are you different now than you were ten years ago? Five years ago?
Whatever your answer is, I know what mine needs to be: Let’s get moving!
(adapted from a sermon preached August 2011)
*I have vague memories of reading a similar line of thought somewhere, but I can’t remember the who’s or where’s of it, so thank you to whoever was responsible for this thought!