Sometimes social media makes me crazy. Before and after this past election was the worst! I wanted to throw my phone in a lake. But I didn’t. I wanted to let go of the things that were stressing me out and distracting me, but I couldn’t let go of the important connections that were there too.
Sometimes we feel like parts of our lives need a revolution. Things get to a point where we can’t take it anymore and we’re ready for an instant upheaval. But there’s that part of us that knows better than to react too quickly. An internal battle begins and we waffle between revolution and inaction.
Revolution is defined as: a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system. Synonyms or words that mean nearly the same thing as revolution are: rebellion, revolt, insurrection, mutiny, uprising, riot, insurgence, seizure of power, coup, etc.
As I studied through high school World History with my son, in our home school this year, two key characteristics of revolutions became apparent: 1) immediacy of drastic action and 2) violence.
Revolutions seem to occur in a state of such anxiety for change, that the actors involved are willing to eliminate the good along with the bad, in hopes of something better in the end. The process of revolution was typically as brutal and disturbing as the old adage goes of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
As we studied the swiftness and brutality of revolutions, we also looked at the slower more conservative actions of reformation.
The most well-known period of reformation refers to an important transition in church history as Protestantism developed out of Catholicism. Our church heritage includes continual reformation, and yet we as Christians rarely think about the reformation option in our own personal lives.
I love what can happen when we study specific words and their meanings, deeply. God always has a way of unpacking treasures He has stored up for us in language and context, that reveal deep significance.
Webster’s dictionary defines reformation as: the act or process of improving something or someone by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc; the act of changing something or someone for the better. Synonyms or words that mean nearly the same thing as reformation are: renewal, realignment, reorganization, transformation, alteration, amendment, change, correction, improvement.
Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it and start over. He came to complete a work He had already begun long ago. He did not violently lead a revolution but instead set an example of slow, patient, necessary, reformation. Yes, He rebuked pharisees and overturned tables when necessary but actions like these were few and far between compared with His actions of patience, endurance, prayerful discipline, humility, and long suffering through teaching and correction.
Most of Christ’s work was reformational rather than revolutionary.
A reformation brings about change slowly over time. It takes discipline and strength to choose reformation over revolution. It takes controlling one’s emotions and it takes patience to wait for reforms and improvements. But it often gets to solutions without the damage that revolutionary action causes. It often moves slow enough and cautious enough to be accompanied by wisdom rather than destructive outbursts. Reformation does not choose to do nothing, but instead works to conserve the good as progress is made in eliminating the bad.
Revolution feels like important quick action but often has detrimental unwanted side effects. The right thing done in the wrong way, or in the wrong time, can be disastrous. Patience is always hard, but often best.
When an area of our lives frustrates us, be it a habit, a relationship, a repetitive distraction, we are tempted to make a wild change through revolution. We are impassioned toward a swift cutting off.
But what good are we letting go of in that haste?
Should I throw my cell phone off a cliff? I’m tempted to sometimes. But really I would be giving up so much good with the bad. Maybe, instead, I should take Facebook off my phone. Maybe I should turn off notifications for social media. Maybe I should slowly, over time, learn to use my phone in ways that provide me with the benefits, and help me avoid some of the negatives. Reformation on my cell phone is a wiser choice than revolution.
There are times for overturning tables. Special circumstances like drug addiction, abuse within a marriage, or an imminent threat to security, certainly call for decisive action. But in many cases, perhaps in most cases, rather than revolution or inaction, reformation may be best.
So try asking yourself next time you are tempted toward a swift emotional action, “Is this a time for revolution, or reformation?”
In support of you and your journey,
Special thanks to Dr. George Grant of the King’s Meadow Study Center who inspired so much of this content through his excellent lecture series on Modernity.