Change Can Be Challenging
When I first arrived in Central Asia a few years ago, I was immediately challenged and fascinated by how different so many things were than those that surrounded me back home. It made me glad in some ways that my time there was going to be limited to a couple of weeks. In a conversation with another American, who had moved there to work and develop a ministry, I asked how he managed to deal with the changes. “Oh,” he said, “You just get used to it.”
When Diane and I moved to Alaska a number of years before that, the change in climate was challenging, to say the least. So I asked other geographical transplants how on earth they managed to deal with it. “You adjust,” they said. “After a while you don’t notice it unless it gets really extreme.” Whereupon I would attempt to explain to them that they were confused, because it was already extreme, but I guess their perception of weather extremities by that time was screwed up beyond help.
The same kind of thing happened to my half-sister who many decades ago moved from eastern Pennsylvania to Arizona. I always ask her how the weather is when we talk on the phone, and the last time I asked, she said, “It’s about 112 degrees.” I shot back my familiar retort, “I don’t know how on earth you stand it.” Her response always goes something like this. “Well… it was pretty awful at first, but after a while it’s just part of life—you make adjustments and try to ignore it.”
God Made Us Incredibly Adaptable—But There’s a Dangerous Downside
We “fearfully and wonderfully made” human beings have an astounding capacity to adapt to changing conditions, and we find that capacity demonstrated all over this magnificent planet. That quality enables us to survive. People live in all kinds of environments, eat all kinds of things, overcome incredible logistical and environmental obstacles, and find ways to function in the harshest conditions. The genius of our Creator in that regard is beyond description—but like so many of the good things He built into us, it can get us into trouble. I saw that dangerous element of our adaptive quality during my first trip to Asia, and it had nothing to do with food or the weather.
Beyond the minor difficulties I encountered with things included on the local menus (OK, sometimes the difficulties were more than minor), there was a common custom that I found disturbing. It was the widespread practice of bribery. It had infiltrated virtually every level of bureaucratic authority, from school officials to traffic cops to building inspectors to tax authorities, and the consequences of not complying could be extensive. For instance, I met a young woman whose life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ caused her to see bribery as the sinful thing that it is, and she decided to stop participating. At the time of our meeting, she had been without a driver’s license for three years. Even though she repeatedly achieved perfect scores on her tests, her refusal to bribe the official whose final authorization she had to have left her with no license—and no recourse. When I questioned other locals about the corrupt practice, they said almost the same thing I had been told about the weather in Alaska and Arizona. “Oh… You just get used to it, and after a while, you don’t notice it anymore.”
Adapting to Corruption Corrupts Freedom Itself
Corruption is a word that finds its way into many conversations in these politically convulsive times. Every new day seems to bring with it fresh evidence that corroborates what we already know, that corruption is a destructive behavioral bacteria that feeds on power, and it can find its way into the highest levels of authority. Our initial reaction is to recoil from it, to condemn it and demand that it be stopped. Perhaps that was the initial reaction to the bribery just mentioned, but the people didn’t clean it up. Instead, they ‘got used to it’. They adjusted to it like some people do to challenging weather and changes in diet. An adaptive response to things we cannot change may be a good thing, but to apply that capacity to moral degradation is dangerous, because death and decay are its companions, and corruption never stops on its own.
Peter was deeply concerned by it. Consider this excerpt of his warning concerning corrupt teachers plaguing the early Church.
“But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you… For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness… While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” 2 Peter 2:12-19 (NKJV).
Adapting to corruption corrupts freedom itself. May God help us not to ‘adjust’ to its stench, and to never allow ourselves to ‘get used to it’.
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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Spot on Ron! Thank you for your great work! Perfect title too!