No, this isn’t the ELCA’s new motto to replace “God’s Work – Our Hands.” It is, however the title of Alan Deutschman’s book in which he describes how, when heart patients are given a choice between changing their lifestyle to avoid the high risk of dying by heart attack, ninety percent choose not to change.
That’s right! 90% choose death!! Why? Deutschman shares three “F” words we think will produce change but most often does not.
FACTS: Even when presented with the truth people won’t change behavior for sake of reason. FEAR: People tend to revert back against it in defiance. “I’ll show you!”
FORCE: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. The same goes for people. What does Deutschman claim brings about change? The answer is the three “R’s.” RELATIONSHIPS with a person or community that can inspire hope.
REPETITION of new practices that reinforce the new behavior. REFRAME your way of thinking.
If we reflect on this we know it’s true. When I graduated college I was very overweight and out of shape. I joined Weight Watchers with my mom and sister and attended the regular weekly meetings, weighing in at the beginning and listening to the inspiring leader and people’s stories that gave us hope we could actually reach our goal. We followed the new eating plan each day every week. I joined Bally’s Fitness and began to work out six days a week and often twice a day. I loved the Life Rower and would compete with myself to hold the record for greatest distance rowed in each of the time frames. And in 17 weeks I lost 62 pounds thanks to new relationships at WW that inspired hope, repetition of a workout that built muscle and burned fat, and reframing my way of thinking when it came to how I spent my spare time working out instead of watching TV. It was one of the healthiest times of my life.
At Easter the Christian faith proclaims the opposite of “Change or die.” The message of Good Friday and Easter is “Because Christ has died and resurrected we are able to be changed, to be transformed, and to be resurrected into new life in Christ.” However, that new life in Christ, that Kingdom life Jesus revealed in his earthly ministry, is a change from the worldly king- dom life we experience every day. Christian living that follows a risen Christ is different and will be a change from the status quo and norm we are tempted to follow daily.
How might we live this new life faithfully despite the temptation to go back to our worldly ways? Deutschman’s three R’s still apply.
RELATIONSHIPS with God, God’s Son Jesus, and God’s people in the church inspire us with a hope that does not disap- point us and the world cannot give. Maybe this is why the first promise we make in our Affirmation of Baptism is to “live among God’s faithful people.”
REPETITION of the faith practices of daily prayer, weekly worship, regular study of God’s word, serving others in need, inviting others to encounter God, encouraging one another in the faith, and giving of our resources towards God’s work re- inforce not only a new behavior but also a new way of living.
REFRAMING occurs when after living among God’s people and engaging in the faith practices of Christian discipleship we begin to view and interpret the world from God’s point of view.
I’m not in the same shape I was back in 1986. Why? Well I no longer go to Weight Watcher meetings, don’t make the gym a priority, and justify a relatively sedentary lifestyle. “It’s just the way life is right now.” But does it have to be? Because Christ died and rose again at Easter we need no longer fear death. It doesn’t have the last word for those who live out of their bap- tismal promise. And when we have relationships grounded in God’s faithful people, and live a routine that reinforces this new way of living we too begin to experience and live God’s kingdom life here and now. We are Easter people. Christ is risen from the dead. And because of that we need not fear change in our lives.