On 22nd May just passed, George Best would have celebrated his 70th Birthday. His was an extraordinary life of brilliance and destruction; an unforgettable football career at Manchester United strangled by an out of control drinking addiction that eventually took his life in 2005. Many people think, with good reason I might add, ‘a leopard never changes its spots’. Meaning, we can’t change what we are. For example, if we’ve supported Chelsea since we were small, like me, we can’t change. If we’re likely to let people down, we always will. If we’re weak willed, we’ll give up eventually. If we’re addicted to drink or drugs, we always will be. ‘A leopard never changes its spots’.
Do you believe this? The evidence suggests this is often true, but is it always true? Is it impossible for us to change? I am convinced the answer to this question is NO, but we need to believe change must happen for change to occur.
The actor Robert Downey Jr. grew up in a home "surrounded by drugs”. He frequently did drugs with his father, actor and filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. He recalled drinking white wine when he was just eight years old. After stints in rehab and even prison as an adult, Downey Jr. finally turned his life around in 2003 after an intervention and a successful stint in rehab. He has been clean and sober ever since.
We celebrate every victory like Downey Jr., but needing to change is not limited to life threatening addictions. Most of us have character flaws that frequently pull us down. For many of us, finding the strength to overcome can prove impossible, but God promises to help us if we ask. The Pentecost promise is that God sends His Holy Spirit to be our helper, to live in us. In the New Testament we find Saul, part of the religious elite of his time, highly trained, a brilliant man, who hated Christians and sought to have them arrested and even killed; but God met Saul on the Damascus road as recorded in Acts Chapter 9 and his life was changed. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, met Jesus in Luke Chapter 19 and his mean life that caused hardship for so many was changed. A faith in God makes change possible.
What about you and me? I’m not sure what challenges you face, but I do know this: if we want to change, God can help us and give us a reason to be changed at the same time. Isn’t that one of the keys to all this? We need a reason to be different. What’s yours?
Alan Comfort - Rector