Recently I was in a meeting of sorts with a variety of individuals from different walks of life. As we tried to talk about the church, the same topic continued to come up. People talked about how they started going to church and they stopped doing all the stuff they use to do that was bad. There is a pretty constant list of those behaviors that are not acceptable that we give up in the Christian church, but I wonder as I spend more and more time focusing on discipleship, does behavior modification equate to life transformation? I am not so sure.
Let’s look at the list of behaviors that are typically modified. People usually quit: drinking, smoking, swearing, using, abusing, chewing, gambling, stealing and lying. There are all good behaviors to quit doing, but how many of those behaviors can be changed apart from Christ? It seems like there are non-believers who get themselves off many of those things, with help of different methods and plans. Do they really equal transformation, or is this simply behavior modification?
II Peter chapter one gives us a picture of life transformation and the process. As we begin the transformation and the things that grow in us as we grow in Christ.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8
Those qualities are things that indicate the transformation that comes from Christ, and they fall in line with the Fruit of the Spirit. This passage in II Peter shows us how we begin in faith and grow until we can show the agape, unconditional love.
My fear is that we have so many with behavior modification, but don’t have love. We know from I Corinthians 13, all the behavior modification in the world apart from love means nothing. I see so much of a lack of love for the Saints and love and compassion for the world. I see this movement towards end times fanaticism where we want this pre-millennial rapture and then the years of tribulation to punish all the lost people. It reminds me of Jonah sitting on the mountain side, waiting for destruction to fall down on Nineveh. Jonah had no agape love for the people, and I wonder if we are any better. Are we being transformed, or are we simply cleaning up our act in an attempt to impress God?