This section looks at the change in behaviour of the first followers of Jesus; the twelve apostles. It argues that their remarkable reaction to meeting Jesus and their response can only be explained as being due to something awesome that really happened, some event that has withstood the test of time. The gospel of Jesus Christ as we know it today is not based on deceptions and lies; it would not have survived for thousands of years.
Behaviour Change Theory
In order to change the behaviour of a person, whether this means a change in attitude towards his or her environment, or dealing with a specific bad habit, it is thought that several preconditions need to be in place, for the change to be sustainable. In order to make a lasting change in one’s life, there are three important factors to consider:
• Readiness to change: Does the person have the willpower, the resources and knowledge to make a lasting change?
• Is there anything preventing the person from changing?
• Expect relapse: What might trigger a return to a former behaviour?
Let’s apply these ‘preconditions’ for change to the twelve apostles, when they met Jesus. Were they ready for the biggest change in their lives? No, they were not. Some were happily fishing or sitting under a tree when Jesus stopped by and called them.
“Come, follow me”
Picture: Deseret News
Nothing had prepared them for the radical change that was about to take place in their lives. Were they free from any barriers that would prevent them to experience lasting change? No, they were not. When they left their fishing nets, they left their families to fend for themselves. As men, they were income generators for those dependent on them. Were they at risk of relapse? Definitely. As with most people’s New Year’s resolutions, the twelve were exposed to all sorts of forces trying to pull them back to their former way of life.
We must conclude that the prevailing theory of preconditions for successful behaviour change does not apply to the first followers of Jesus. If that is the case, they how come that their change was so profound and so permanent?
The Excitement of the Apostles
The change in behaviour of the apostles that led them to write the gospels and travel to spread the Good News can only be explained in view of their very real and life-changing experience.
“I am the way, the truth and the life”
Picture: Lutheran Church Regina
Can anyone write so passionately and dedicate his life to a cause so totally and all based on a lie? For example, when the gospel was being told to Greeks, they accepted it in great numbers! The gospel could only have spread so fast if it was as real as the chair that you are sitting on and if indeed it really was good news.
The Sacrifices of the Early Christians
The twelve apostles and subsequent followers of Jesus did not have anything to gain by making false claims about what they had experienced. Many of them became martyrs, because they would not denounce what they had seen with their own eyes. The early Christians knew first-hand what it was like to suffer. Throughout the Book of Acts, we read how they were attacked, beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for spreading Jesus’ message. Jesus must have been incredibly real and amazing if people were willing to die for Him.
Growth of the Early Church
Great leaders and visionaries attract followers. The rapid growth explosion of the early church can only be explained in view of the authenticity of Jesus. The explosion of the early church (5,000 in one day, for example) can only be explained in view of the authenticity of Jesus. Think about it. Truth has a tendency to survive. Jesus brought the message from God the Father to the people, in such a convincing way that many put their faith in him. The Christian faith is not based on hearsay or wishful thinking. It is rooted in the well-documented life of Jesus, who came to offer us peace with God. His story withstands the test of time.