OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #202 Those Skywalkers Have Always Been Trouble
A leopard can’t change his spots.
An old dog can’t learn new tricks.
These two little expressions both mean the same thing. It is hard, and perhaps impossible, for a person to change the way he does things. We don’t want to say it, so we create expressions to say it for us.
He will never change.
I heard a comedian on the radio a few weeks ago making jokes about my homeland, PEI. He was an Islander, so it was OK. He joked that if Star Wars had happened there, it would not have taken three episodes and six hours to figure out Darth Vader was Luke’s father. “Oh - Skywalker, huh? Aren’t there Skywalkers down there in Naboo? . . . I think he’s Vader’s son. Those Skywalkers - always were hot tempered, you know!”
Small communities are not the only places where it is hard to escape a reputation. I used to think it was a small town thing, but I have realized it is a relationship thing which happens regardless of the size of the place. We tend to mark people by the stupid things they have done in the past. It doesn’t seem to matter that time has gone by and real change has taken place. We remember the stupid things and it makes it hard for us to get past them.
Now, I’m not saying we should be naive about these things. Sometimes Christians are accused of being too trusting, or of being duped by people who might talk us into believing they have changed. Rather, I’m talking about real change, but in the back of our minds we still think it is only a matter of time before they do those stupid things again.
In Acts 15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas argued over whether they should take a young man named John Mark on their proposed missionary journey. Always the encourager, Barnabas wanted to take his cousin with them, but Paul felt they could not trust him to complete the trip because he had deserted them before. They had such a strong disagreement that Paul and Barnabas parted company over the matter. Paul took Silas and went one way, and Barnabas left in another direction with John Mark.
We read about the troubled time in Acts 13:13, where it doesn’t sound so bad. John Mark returned to Jerusalem while the others travelled on. Whatever happened, Paul thought the young man should not travel with them. Once trouble, always trouble.
This is not the end of the story, however. About twelve or thirteen years later (60AD), Paul sent greetings from Mark to the Colossian believers (Colossians 4:10). At about the same time, he also wrote to Philemon from prison and again passed along Mark’s greetings (Philemon 23-24). Both times he suggested that Mark may also have been a prisoner with him. A few years after that (63-64AD), Paul was still a prisoner and wrote to Timothy, asking that Mark be sent to him because he was so helpful (2 Timothy 4:11).
Whatever happened in the intervening years, Paul no longer held the young man’s actions against him and came to love and trust him, finding him helpful and encouraging.
Maybe, just maybe... we sometimes fuel conflict because we don’t let go of someone’s reputation. Paul is an example for us in letting go of the past. Again, I don’t want us to be naive. But at the same time, maybe we can recognize real change and repentance.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Oct 15, 2009. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com Blog located at http://onfireletter.blogspot.com/