Change requires confronting evil

Change should be the most uncomfortable endeavour in the life of any human being. If change comes with a feeling of comfort, that change might not be ideal for the individual. Change requires invalidating everything considered beneficial to self, in this life. Changing from doing what is considered right, by other fellow humans, in order to benefit oneself, should not necessarily be regarded as change. The right word for such a change would be succumbing.

Change should be associated with doing what is right for other people more than seeking to elevate one’s status. Evil can be defined as a consideration of self-exultation, more than considering other people’s exultation. Change should not be driven by self-interest, where other people’s welfare would not be considered. This describes what makes change unpleasant.

The fundamental lesson in appreciating change is to know that this world offers neither absolute rightness nor absolute wrongness. What is right ought to be considered by assessing whether it potentially benefits the majority or the minority. If that change seeks to benefit the minority, at the expense of the majority, the project should be regarded as evil.

However, if the project potentially benefits the majority, even though the same majority might find it unpopular, it would be right. A person is considered evil, as long as self-beneficent, but prejudicing others. This can be complicated, as one might be well-received, even when carrying out a harmful project. The bottom line would be to consider whether what is provided is potentially evil or toxic to others.

The illusion has always been that a person who robs a bank is benefiting. While assumed to have benefitted, materially, the person would have sacrificed his freedom and dignity. The real person protects his interests by protecting other people’s interests. That is; doing unto others as one would like them to do to him (Matthew 7:12).

The more one considers the plight of other people, the more he raises the bar of handling his own plight. However, the more one raises the bar for self-benefit, at the expense of others, the more one nullifies his own benefits. A person does well when occupied with handling other people’s problems rather than his own. The parable of the Prodigal Son could sufficiently illustrate this point.

The self-centred young man approached his father asking to be given what would be worth his inheritance, after his father’s death. His loving father did not resist his request, because the father considered his son’s interests ahead of his. The son did not even consider the father’s interests, but his own.

Self-centred people have no time to think about other people. After receiving the inheritance, the wayward son departed, hoping to enjoy himself with prostitutes. The amount of inheritance initially appeared as what would sustain his worth, among his prostitutes. Other people respect you, only when possessing cash. However, that respect vanishes, after the money would have also vanished.

The law of happiness is in giving to others. Anything the person possesses fulfils the interests of those then idolizing him, in return; translating to his worth. The prodigal son squandered his inheritance, inevitably reducing himself to a destitute. The evilness, unrealized by the prodigal son, at the time of receiving his inheritance, had eventually caught up with him.

He had to share food with hogs for survival. It was in that state of humiliation, that his humanity began to dawn. He then postulated to go and offer servanthood—projecting to provide value to his father. This was no longer the consideration of self-beneficence, but the recognition of his Father’s worth. The change, then, focused on self-degradation, rather than self-exultation.

At his time of departure, to pursue his adventures, the prodigal son had borne self-exultation. The change, at his return, had something to do with humility. The humiliation of having to confess being stupid, became preferred, as his situation had become desperate. His father was more civilized than the cruel master who associated him with pigs. In his tattered clothing condition, he took a long trip back home.

To his pleasant surprise, his father still treated him as before, without begrudging him for his notoriety. To express his joy, the father slaughtered a fat calf, in order to celebrate his return. It was not even necessary to punish him for his stupidity. But the principle of justice demanded that he ought to be punished.

This impinged on his dedicated brother, having remained loyal to his father, but then appearing as not appreciative. The poignant question ought to be what does one change to? Change cannot be considered a change for the sake of changing. The driving principle is looking at issues that bring livingness to the majority, rather than the minority.

Jesus considered this principle when sacrificing his body for the benefit of the entire humanity. Like the brother of the prodigal son, Jesus had not committed any sin to deserve to go through the agonies of the cross. Without doing what Jesus did, in sacrificing his own life, the entire humanity could have been condemned.

Had Jesus not undertaken the sacrificial responsibility, not a single human being could survive God’s wrath. Humanity is doomed without Jesus. But the same Jesus has invited a few, that He identifies as His brothers, to behave likewise.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:4-8 NIV).

Jesus did not need to change; hence, He is identified as a sacrificial Lamb of God. His story is like that of the elder brother of the prodigal son who remained loyal to his father. His brother squandered the Father’s wealth, only to come back as destitute. In the process of accommodating the prodigal son, the father had to sacrifice the loyal son.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:28-32 NIV).

Using human judgment, some people find the older brother unforgiving of his wayward brother. But such a judgment arises from misunderstanding the facts on the ground. His wayward brother had remorsefully appealed to his father, who then considered his repentance before forgiving him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:21-24 NIV).

The most valid point to note is that the Father considered his prodigal son as having become alive. The condition of self-centeredness was death. But, at the time of repentance, humility was represented by change, which then symbolized the gaining of life. This was the most important development that the older brother could also have appreciated, had he known the facts.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound’ (Luke 15:25-27 NIV).

One of the principles of communication is to duplicate what transpired without alteration, before understanding. Notice what happened at the arrival of the prodigal son, and the information passed to the older brother, by one of the servants. The details of repentance by his wayward brother are left out. The older brother is given only that his brother had arrived and the father was celebrating.

This gives the impression that the Father was merely celebrating, without considering his brother’s wayward nature. The Father’s behaviour seems inconsiderate as if also projecting injustice. This is what caused the older brother to feel uncomfortable. He did not have to pretend to support injustice.

To the older son, the Father then explains the aspect of his brother, having been dead, but then being alive. By talking about the prodigal son’s death, but now alive, the Father considered the repentant nature of the prodigal son. Self-centeredness is death while changing from that condition to magnanimity is life. The changed condition of the prodigal son is what made the Father celebrate.

The older son was then assured of the fact that everything that belonged to the Father was his. This meant that the younger brother would, from then on, treat his elder brother as Lord. The elder son would be the one to judge, on behalf of the Father. In the event that the former prodigal son reverts to his wayward behaviour, it would be his elder brother to execute justice.

The parable of the prodigal son highlights the effect of humanity as represented in the prodigal son. The son, who remained loyal to his father, is Jesus. Hence, Jesus is recorded pronouncing the words “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” Which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 NIV).

These words represent the grumbling nature of the older son, after having heard of his brother’s return. Jesus, as our brother, bearing the responsibility of being our sacrifice, did not need to change. Life had remained with Him, as He did not leave His Father. It is the rest of humanity, signifying the prodigal son, who needs to change. The change required is from self-centeredness to altruism.

Without being reduced to a destitute, the prodigal son may have not thought of repentance. He, probably, would have remained in his wayward condition. Or, he may have died in his blissful, but sinful condition, before seeing the light. He should be considered very lucky, because he was reduced to destitution, which led him to, then, confront his sinful condition.

However, we have to still thank God; some people find it easier to confront their unrepentant condition without having to be reduced to destitution. This refers to those who heed Jesus’ instructions to forsake everything before following Him. This is where it is often impossible for the majority of humanity, to confront.

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NIV).

This is not about copying other people’s lifestyles, whether Simon Peter, Paul, or any other. It is about allowing God to live in that person, and do whatever God desires to accomplish through him/her. A Christian is described in declaring with Paul:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).

Death is represented in self-centeredness, while life is represented in altruism. This is the only formula for adopting new life in Jesus. This has got nothing to do with joining a Church group or following the programs subscribed to. It is about baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This then allows Jesus to take over one’s life.

Figuratively, the brother sacrificed for his wayward brother. This earned the elder brother the status of being in charge of everything, in his father’s homestead. The real lesson is that one wins, when confronting evil, but loses when succumbing. Resisting change is tantamount to resisting life.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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