Can A Leopard Change Its Spots? by Roger Thomas

Can A Leopard Change Its Spots?
Roger Thomas
Jeremiah 13:23; John 1:12-13, 35-50
December 31, 2000

Consider one of life's most fundamental and troublesome questions. The Old Testament prophet phrased it like this: Can a leopard change it's spots? We might ask it differently: can people change? Can I change? Can you--not even will you, but more to the root of the matter--can you ever be any different that you are right now?

For lots of people, maybe all of us, this is no academic question. John is an alcoholic. He has finally admitted it after years of frustration and failure. But can he change or is he doomed to die a drunk? Beth started her marriage on the right track, but some where something went terribly wrong. She had an affair, left her husband and broke her parent's heart. Now her new life has fallen apart and she wants to go back. Can she change? Can a leopard change it's spots?

Bobby is a troubled teen. He was messed up before that. He was always in trouble. He has dropped out of school and is running with the wrong crowd. His step dad has given up. His mom is at her wits end. The neighbors say he is no good. Can he change?

Frank is a go-getter of a business man. He built a business from scratch and lost his family in the process. He has a full bank account and an empty house. The doctor just said slow down and get your priorities straightened out or else. Can he change?

Warren is the pillar of the church. He has held it together for years—so most people say. Others say he has held it back for years. That he is a worker, no one can dispute. But he is also an angry, bitter man. On the outside he is deeply religious, but inside he is a mess. His life and his memories are full of hurts, doubts, and secret sin. Can next year be any different from last year? Can a leopard change its spots?

On and on the stories could go. We could all tell them. We all know them. If not our own, then those of people we know and love. Can life ever be different? Can next year be better than last? Can I loose weight and keep it off this time? Can I get out of debt and on top of my finances and stay there? Can I be a better parent or husband or wife? Can a leopard change its spots? Can I overcome a secret, besetting sin? Perhaps anger, bitterness, thoughts, or an enslaving habit that I just can't break despite years and years of New Year's resolutions? Can we ever become the kind of bold, disciplined praying Christians preachers talk about? Or will this year be like last—a flurry of good intentions in January, limping into disappointment in February and outright failure by Easter?

What do you think? Can people really change? Can a leopard change its spots? Can a person really be "born again?" As church-going types we know what we are supposed to say? But do we really believe that people can fundamentally change?

Some people say yes. Of course, people can change, we are told. It is ...

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