Mark 2:18-22 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, ‘‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’’ Jesus answered, ‘‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. ‘‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.’’
Jesus did not feel obligated to fulfill religious traditions and live up to conventional expectations. He was not bound to currently accepted practices; indeed, he was willing to radically depart from well-established ways. He insisted that those following him should not try to fit his bold new teaching into their old understandings. He encouraged them to be open to a fresh approach (which incidentally did not condemn the old teachings, but rather fulfilled them). Jesus was not afraid of being labeled a radical or a revolutionary. He challenged popular notions of what to live for and gave people enough of a shake-up to inspire them to think again about what they were doing and why they were doing it.
Are we willing to rock the boat? Do we challenge the comfortable customs of our generation and put our own traditions on trial? Do we scrutinize the well-accepted but timeworn policies in our company and look for better, more appropriate, or more timely ways of reaching our goals? Men and women who make an impact during their lifetime may not have any more creative juices flowing through their veins than anyone else, but they will necessarily be people who won’t accept ‘‘because we’ve always done things that way’’ as a valid defense for outmoded ways of doing things. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: ‘‘I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badge and names, to large societies and dead institutions.’’ The non-conformist will consistently stir things up and cause others to rethink their positions. Only the person who refuses to automatically conform to generally accepted practices can expect to find a better way. According to Ben Shahn: ‘‘Every great historic change has been based upon non-conformity, has been bought either with the blood or with the reputation of non-conformists.’’
Jesus also understood that truly radical changes do not come about by merely adding on to or making minor adjustments to the existing framework. Trying to combine the old with the new is like pouring new wine into an old wineskin: it will ruin them both. Therefore
Jesus demanded that people rid themselves of their preconceived ideas. A radical change requires a brand new perspective, a clean slate, a fresh approach, and a willingness to start building again from the very foundation. Familiarity produces a sense of security, but people who are unwilling to let go of the old and venture into new and unfamiliar territory over and over again will never be men and women of impact. They are afraid of change. They value their own security more than the good that might be achieved by a change. This is why it’s impossible to become a citizen of the kingdom of God without starting all over again. This is more difficult for people who feel they have already achieved a great deal and who compare their achievements against what others have achieved, and not against the standard of perfection. A man named Nicodemus learned this lesson from Jesus: you can’t enter the kingdom of God by just adding something good to what you already have.
In addition to being willing to start all over again ourselves, we need to look for other people who are willing to completely forsake their old ways if need be to make room for new ways. Such people are not stuck in mediocrity. They are open to making whatever changes are necessary in order to achieve their goals.