Being a facilitator of change usually takes epically heroic nerves. Changing things that are ingrained into the culture of a people is near impossible. Josiah, after hearing God’s will for the community, decided to change everything around him. Everyone was comfortable with the status quo of their religious tendencies were not even thinking change was a necessity. But God revealed to Josiah that the way things were were not the way they should have been. So he called him towards the tough road of change.
Josiah’s change starts with the symbols. When you try to enact something that brings people closer to God, you are always bound to face resistance at some point. So many things in church communities are symbolic, from what they sing to what they do. Even how things are done have symbolic value. When these values start to hurt the mission of God to humanity, most communities are severely invested in the value. Whether written or unwritten, the expectation towards the practice is assumed and when people do not move in that direction, they are labeled as enemies either of the leaders of the community or worse enemies of God. The passage does not say this, but there probably was someone saying that Josiah was destroying their traditional values. Josiah, knowing God revealed this mission to Him, was undeterred. The change had to happen. The good of the world depended on it.
Josiah’s change never included disrespect of those who came before Him that were chasing what God had for them. One of the easiest things to do when changing things is to disregard other Godly people or not learn from those who came before you. We have so many people we can learn from who were game changers of faith. Without those people, the movement of Christianity would not be here. It would just be a dying mass of people who were not experiencing anything important from God. It is these people who made faith what it is today and we owe it to them to keep looking for the things that need to change. We should always remember those people and remind others of them. It is with gratitude that we look back to these people.
Another aspect of Josiah’s change was that it did not guarantee success. Josiah never saw an Israel of economic success or in a time of peace. One of the things we have to accept as heroes is that tragedy is possible. By tragedy, I mean that we might never see the fruits of our work. What makes Israel’s situation more dire is that the next king brought back the bad things that existed before. Have you ever seen a community like that? These are people led by this desire to keep certain trends, rules, or traditions with no regard to how they affect people. Even in getting the traditions back, they will burn anyone who stands in their way. It’s amazing what we will do when we allow religion to over turn our God given mandate to love others. We will raise a banner with holy written on it while trampling over others. This is the reality we live in, a world battling back and forth between God’s will and human demise.
The reality raises the question is changing the world worth it? It’s a good, pragmatic question. If we are practical about this, there is not a guarantee that we will see our return on investment here. We might have to let posterity experience that. But the answer is still yes, it is worth it. You can’t see that by asking the practical questions. You have to ask the experiential questions. The only way to do that is to be the change for good in others. Have you ever given money to poor or been there for someone in need? In the end, those experiences might be unforgettable for some. We have the potential to change a life for good. We can’t do that if we are focused on tradition and ritual. We can only do that when we are focused on people. Traditions and rituals have to at least be peripheral matters. People seeing Jesus and experiencing blessing must always be our main mission.
One last thing, change needs to be about people seeing and experiencing Jesus. Change for change’s sake is just as bad as resisting change no matter how necessary it is. God changes the world for the benefit of the world. It’s time we begun the changes we need and did them for the right reasons. If we keep people in mind and follow God into this, we can trust that this is worth the work and disappointment, because in the end, lives are changed in an unforgettable way for the better.