Tigers don’t change their stripes1
Camouflaging stripes on a tiger are not the point behind this phrase. When a person’s behavior changes, what do we say? They are on drugs. Something is different. What is their ulterior motive? In short, new behavior is met with skepticism. “I know my brother,” she says. “He may have apologized, but he’s no different.” A mutual fund company will always give the disclaimer that past performance is no guarantee of future results. The reverse of this reflects our view of people: past performance is a guarantee of future results.
Why do I raise the way we look at people? Because overcoming ourselves is a way of changing our tiger’s stripes. It may seem mundane to the one whose life has become different. Arrival at new patterns of behavior, though, is extremely difficult. It does not happen without immense effort. Just think of all those who set their minds to lose weight or stop smoking. Many, many fail in their efforts: it’s what we do. John indicates that some do change their stripes. It relates to faith, and faith strong to the point of overcoming must be well founded. It must be hooked into something of great power. John also says in verse 5 that the one who changes their stripes is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Are you familiar with Jesus?
There is a risk that the name of Jesus becomes so ordinary, so familiar to us that we inadvertently diminish his origins, his authority, the weighty task he came and performed. Changing human behavior in the face of conflicting desires is no trivial task. Many have been unsuccessful in such ventures, but Jesus was not; is not. John fans back into awareness the deep foundations of Jesus’ divine origin; that place where his mission to change our tiger’s stripes began. He also infuses his words in such a way as to illuminate Jesus’ authority to satisfy the most austere of heaven’s proclamations: without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. Let us now turn into the Biblical record.
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6-ESV)
“This is he,” said John, “who came…” Let us land with both feet on the word came for a short time. Have you thought about when he came? I don’t think I generally do too much with that, but he has come twice, so far. The first time, of course, was at the incarnation. The creator, the Lord of life, arrived as a vulnerable infant. Even then his impact was remarkable manifesting with angels, visions, visits from foreign emissaries and murderous stirrings of jealous, local governments.
After he settled for three decades he came again and this time to the waters where his cousin, John the Baptist was hard at work preparing the way for the Lord. Having appeared he went on to act as a Savior in the world. Since John speaks so boldly about the life-changing nature of Jesus it was important that he give evidence to support the office Jesus filled, the mission he carried out and the authority by which he carried out these things. This is he who came…