The focus of this second article of the series centered on the indispensability of reforms, from time to time, of individuals, Institutions, and nations, is on what the Bible has to teach us on reforms and how to carry them out. Various words are used to describe the concept of reform or the attempts to correct and make persons, things and institutions better. These words are transformation, revolution, renaissance, renewal, invigoration, rejuvenation, and revitalization. All these words and the concepts they seek to convey have in common the desire and concrete attempts to correct the mistakes of the past and make things, persons and institutions better. In what ways can the Bible teach us about how to reform ourselves and our institutions? Let us explore in brief below. The introductory article on background and definitions made the following points:
There is no argument that Liberia desperately needs to reform its public sector as a whole. This will certainly include the major areas of governance, security, economy and education. But what do we mean by reform? What is it we want to reform? How do we want to reform? Are we willing to pay the price for reforms? We need to reflect on and find answers to these and many more questions if we are to correct the errors of the past and make genuine progress.
What is a reformation? How does it differ from a revolution? A reformation calls for a return to the roots, basics; restoration to the original mandate or intent. It still has faith in the system or institution but questions unhelpful additions or deviations and cries for a return to the original. A reformation assumes something has gone wrong but that it can be corrected. It is a call for making good that which was once good but has gone bad. A reformation is a gradual and peaceful change. But a revolution is a call for a radical change; it loses faith in the system or religion and demands that it be removed or destroyed and replaced with a new one.
The key concept in both terms is change for the better. Change is part and parcel of human existence. Someone has observed that when we face inevitable changes in life, and they will come from to time, we have two choices: either to cry and give up and let the changes do whatever they will or we can use them to get better. Most of us desire change but often resist it when it involves us personally. We would rather expect the government and everybody else to change but not us. Change or reform must we or miss out a lot in life.
Religions call for change or reform of people and their environments. Most major religions of the world are in the business of making people and their relationships to the rest of creation better. The chief goal of Christianity is to make people and their environments better. The Bible uses different words to convey the idea of reform: transformation (Romans 12:2), renewal (Romans 12:2), new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The basic and fundamental truth is that all human beings and their institutions are not perfect and thus need reform or renewal. The Psalmist and Paul make this point vividly: “God looks down from heaven upon us all, to see if there is any who is wise, if there is one who seeks after God. Everyone has proved faithless; all alike have turned bad; there is none who does; no, not one…. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Psalm 53:2-3; Romans3:23).
The fact of the matter is that, and we all know this from experience from within and around us, none of us is without some weakness somewhere and we all have the tendency to be bad. The Bible attributes this to sin and a fallen nature in each one of us. But the Bible does not only tell us that we are weak, do terrible things, have the tendency to decline from good to bad; it points the way out.
That we can be saved and can change for the better at any time, no matter how bad and far we have strayed from God and what is good.
Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The basic biblical principle is that man and his institutions are capable of failings, and therefore need reform all the time. The Bible implies that this much desired reform or transformation begins with the mind, a mind that earnestly desires and seeks change for the better. It believes that the change comes when humans cooperate with God and in dependence upon God do what they ought to do. It neither can be done when humans push everything on God and do nothing, nor when they depend solely on their own ingenuity. God wants all persons and their institutions to reform and will play his part but humans must play their part too.