At the most recent meeting we also had in attendance a priest . . . or at least he should have been a priest. Here the priesthood is a family business, passing from generation to generation. But this would-be priest would be offering sacrifices that he knows Jesus completed with his blood. So when the old priest died suddenly, he had a choice: reject his family, his role in society and leave his village bereft of thousands of years of tradition, or reject Jesus as the one who made the final sacrifice.
The last time Grant talked with this guy, he was praying through this, obviously, life-changing decision. We hadn’t seen him until he showed up at this meeting. He is not a village priest now; he is the leader of a church. The priesthood is dead in Kilimary. Jesus changed his heart, and through this one man a village and whole culture is changing forever.
(Side Note: This man’s knee was so swollen after their 12 hour walk that he could barely get around the next day. We tried to figure out a way to get him back in the truck, but when that wasn’t possible we gathered around him, laid hands on him, and prayed for God to heal his leg for the journey home. He woke up that night with no swelling and was walking around like nothing had ever been wrong when we saw him back home later.)
This is not the first time this has happened. Last May we heard that one of our church leaders, who had been a part of the priesthood, had defected from the sacrifices along with all his sons. The whole priesthood was effectively wiped out in a day as he and his future replacements put their faith his Jesus. While the village still sacrifices, they know when the current priests die their legacy will not continue. Again, their culture is changing.
However, here’s the rub: that leader is now no longer a leader. Due to taking a new wife (while still married), this figure of a changing culture now signifies every person’s struggle. Jesus changes culture because he changes hearts. To the the extent that our own hearts change, our culture can change. Why should we expect others to change when we ourselves do not? We are all responsible to fight for the change in our own hearts, before trying to change our culture. Our culture will change, if Jesus has anything to say about it. And yet, Jesus starts with the individual heart.
Jesus is changing thousands of years of tradition and culture to set people free. But that will only happen we all give our hearts over every day to be changed, infused, and regenerated. We all need culture change. But culture change succeeds or fails one heart at a time. And it starts with our own hearts.