When Leopards Change Their Spots
There is an old saying, “A leopard never changes its spots.” In other words, people don’t change. That, however, does not appear to be God’s attitude. God constantly calls for our transformation, showing us a new way—a way of love and peace and hope, a way that changes us and makes us new.
Today’s story is one of many examples in scripture of changed lives. Jonah didn’t believe that his enemies in Nineveh could change. In fact, he hoped that they wouldn’t change. He wanted God to punish them for their evil, warring ways. His sermon, however, was more powerful than he imagined. The people came to believe in God, and their lives were changed. Their king told them to join him in calling fervently on God. God saw that the people’s hate-filled ways had stopped. As a result, God rescinded the plan for their destruction and forgave them. These Assyrian leopards had changed their spots.
God is a God of transformation and forgiveness and love. The hateful can become loving. The liar can become truthful. The disdainful can become respectful. With God leading the way, transformation can and does happen. Sometimes we are the leopards who are called to change our spots. Thanks be to God for the forgiving love that relentlessly pursues us and gives us second chances. Because of God’s mercy and grace, we sinful leopards can change our spots too.
God of hope and transformation, guide us to discern areas in our lives where we need to change. Lead the way that we may be transformed by your love. In Jesus’ matchless name. Amen.
Things are not always as they seem. To Jonah, the people of Nineveh seem beyond hope, so he runs away rather than going to preach to them. But God has other plans. To Jonah’s surprise, the Ninevites turn to God. In our eyes, social standing and wealth may seem to divide people into different classes, but the psalmist declares that in God’s economy all are equal. Paul echoes the theme of the temporary nature of all things in this life; they should not be our source of security. Jesus opens his ministry in Mark by proclaiming that God is breaking into history to overthrow what has been accepted as the way things are. Sometimes God’s perspective is not our perspective.
Read Jonah 3:1-10. Can you think of a time when you sensed God calling you to do something you didn’t want to do? How did you respond?
Read Psalm 62:5-12. How have you experienced God’s “awesome deeds” in your life? What is your response?
Read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. What distracts you from focusing on God? How might you reorder your priorities?
Read Mark 1:14-20. What might have led Simon, Andrew, James, and John to immediately stop what they were doing and follow Jesus? Are there things that make you hesitate in following Jesus’ call to you?
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