Posted: 3/30/18 at 11:45am. Column by Ed Jordan.
Last week I attended a wonderful conference led by Tod Bolsinger in Newport News. The theme was about change in organizations and how to lead people into uncharted waters. We were exploring the resistance which surfaces in a system or organization that is being led into changes in functioning to become more effective. One of the statements that Dr. Bolsinger shared was: “People don’t resist change; they resist loss.”
Think about that sentence for a moment. On the surface most of us know that our lives are always changing, whether it’s our aging bodies, our families, or our workplaces. Changes usually cause a rise in anxiety. If you raise the subject of changes to come in the workplace, you can feel people’s levels of anxiety rise. Churches are no different. Church is the one place in our lives where things have tended to stay pretty “traditional,” producing a comfort zone for those who like certainty.
It’s usually too easy to villainize or disparage those who resist change, and it’s also easy for those who resist change to villainize the changers. Thus, change becomes a source of conflict in our families, organizations, and churches. What is interesting is that the people who resist change are usually motivated by love; they love the way things are and don’t want them to change. At the same time, those who are promoting change are also usually motivated by love; they desire growth, health, and the potential success of the organization. Both groups of people believe they are preventing loss.
Bolsinger’s statement about change and loss explains a lot of things in such a situation and reframes the issues that need to be addressed.
The changes that come into our lives represent losses. Losses take time to process. The difficulty is that the rate of changes happening around us is very quick, and we often lack the necessary time for grieving losses.
With that as a backdrop, let’s think a few moments about the rapid changes Jesus faced. He had spent a little more than three years pouring his life into the disciples. As Jesus began to tell them that he was going to Jerusalem to die, the disciples resisted him. That was a change that did not fit their theology.
But Jesus kept talking about his coming death. What did Jesus mean in saying that he would go to Jerusalem and be executed? “We can’t lose Jesus!” the disciples must have thought. Their eyes probably glazed over when he said: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17 NASB).
One thing of great importance to notice is that Jesus did not resist being falsely arrested, betrayed by Judas, lied about, spat upon, falsely accused, whipped, and punished. He who had done no wrong took all the whippings they could bestow upon him, without resisting any of it.
How could he do that? Because he had a different perspective on what was a loss and what was a gain. Jesus came to lose his life, which would become a huge gain for millions of people in the world. He came to die so that everyone who would embrace what he did for them would gain life—a life that would last forever (see John 3:16). What he was going to accomplish in losing his life would be the biggest win ever in the history of humanity.
In John 12:23–28 (ESV) we read that Jesus was like a grain of seed corn. If he didn’t sacrifice himself and die in our place, then he would remain alone. But if he died for our sins and was raised from the dead, then his life would multiply itself millions of times over. He said in John 12:26: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” He explained that what he was doing was a gain for everyone and that it was his purpose in life. Listen to his conclusion in vs. 27-28 (ESV): “Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. So Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Are you facing potential losses? Are they really losses, or through Jesus’ resurrection do they become eternal gains?