“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil?” (Jeremias 13: 23)
This verse may bring us a feeling of hopelessness and vulnerability because the text says: «If’ your bad habits are as permanent as the color of your skin and the fur of men and beasts (genetically determined), will you be able to change your deep-rooted evil character through the power of habit ? Will you be able to free yourself from your addictions Fortunately, when we interpret the passage in its context, we realize that God is compassionate, loving and does not leave us hopeless. The situation of the people of Judah during the times of Jeremiah was of open idolatry. By divine order, Jeremiah dedicates several chapters to describe Judah’s sinful condition and its almost unavoidable fatal destiny according to today’s text. We will soon hear pleasant invitations and comforting promises, » ‘If you return, then I will bring you back; you shall stand before Me;… and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you’, says the Lord. ‘I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible» (Jer. 15: 19-21). And further on he affirms, «But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One» (20: 11)
The power of habits is colossal. During my school years, I (J) attended San Ildefonso College in Madrid and there I learned both the doctrine and the practices of the Catholic tradition. For example, all students had to make the sign of the cross as we passed under a picture of Mary which was situated in a high place at the main entrance of the building. I might have made thousands of signs of the cross in this beautiful place because the picture was situated in a path that leads from one place to another. When I left school, I embraced the Adventist Christian doctrine and I have never made the sign of the cross anymore. But when I returned to the school a few years later and walked under that picture, I noticed that my right hand, almost by itself, moved toward the forehead to start the sign. There were still some traces left of that habit that had not been practiced for years which were associated to a belief based on images that I no longer agreed with.
Even if the power of habits is great, the power of God is even greater. Moreover, it is within our reach if we allow Him to act in our lives even when we have many bad habits. At the same time, let us perform good works without any hesitation, «And let us not row weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart» (Gal. 6:9).