For some time I have looked at the pop up advert on my Windows 7 PC that advises me to upgrade to Windows 10. As I have been reasonably content with my present operating system, I resisted its blandishments, until today, when emboldened by my wife’s decision to use Windows 10, I clicked the button to get the upgrade, expecting that it would all happen in a flash, or at least, rapidly. As those who have already made this transition will know, that was a mistaken assumption, as the various downloads and alterations are annoyingly slow. As I have absolutely no idea exactly what processes are involved it’s entirely possible that in fact the upgrade is lightning fast, given all the tasks it has to perform.
I!m told that if you decide to clean the old system out first of all, the installation of the new one is much quicker, as it doesn’t have to cope with the idiosyncratic collection of programmes which you’ve added over time.
I want to compare this upgrade with the event that Christian believers call conversion, meaning the fundamental change brought about by trusting Jesus and his way. Christian theology has seen this a a complete turn – around of your life, which in the New Testament is the Greek word metanoia, sometimes mistranslated as repentance. It does mean a change of mind and heart.
As a teenager I became for a while enthusiastic about an evangelical form of Christianity that expected true conversion to be a rapid event. Maybe not quite overnight, but certainly not protracted. It involved a true recognition of your sins and a passionate desire to turn away from them towards the mercy of God offered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you completed this process of conversion, you were “saved”, you were given “salvation” which was a sure possession even if it required to be “worked out in fear and trembling.”
Ach, dearie dear, if only it had been as simple as that!
In fact, this promised upgrade, the replacement of my malfunctioning operating system with the mind of Christ, has taken most of a lifetime already and is far from complete even now. As I write I notice that my computer is telling me that the Windows Uphrade is 9% complete. Is my Jesus upgrade any more complete? I doubt it. Looking back on past evils and follies that I have recognised I am emboldened to think that some progress has been made, but when I recollect that at the time I deceived myself into thinking they were acceptable, I’m not so sure. Perhaps, no, almost certainly, there are similar faults in my present living about which I am again deceived.
If I were to give any details about these faults, my readers would feel they were getting too much information. It’s like other peoples’ sex lives which are always either disgusting or ridiculous. Perhaps it’s enough to say that (unfortunately?) my sins have not been great, scarlet, swashbuckling sins, but small, grey and cowardly, about which I could never boast even in bad company.
On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve realised much to my surprise that I have downloaded some of Jesus’ operating system and am capable of some goodness which was beyond me in the past. Along with Simone Weil, who wrote some daft things, but also expressed some fundamental truths with unmatched clarity, I believe that our connection with the goodness that is God, that is not of this world, is what keeps us human. In its absence, we become demonic, but even a small amount of it makes all the difference.
The difficulty of conversion is that the new programme has to overwrite previous programmes, some of which, however warped, show surprising resilience. In the case of the most stubborn, there may need to be complete removal. My computer said, ” in order for the upgrade to continue the following programmes must be completely removed. Do you want to continue?” So when I refused to change a particularly cherished fault, it didn’t merely leave one thing uncorrected, it stopped the entire process of conversion. There are no 98% converted people who just happen to be racists; rather, their racism has prevented the transformation of their lives by God.
So that’s why a man in his 74th year on this planet can compare his conversion to a computer upgrade which is taking an inordinately long time. It would certainly be no surprise if God, like me, has at times been tempted to cancel the process, as I presume that like me, God keeps an eye on what’s happening and looks forward to the finished conversion, when the thing will be more effective for his/her work and less liable to foul-ups and crashes. So it wouldn’t surprise me if God were to say,”Oh for goodness sake, life’s too short for this nonsense. I’ll put that one to the tip and get a new model!”
But the gospel tells me that fortunately I live in the time of God’s patience, so this slow turning of mine can continue, if I am willing to keep learning.
“Lord, for your tender mercies sake, lay not our sin to our charge; but forgive what is past and give us grace to amend our sinful lives. To decline from sin and incline to virtue, that we may walk with a perfect heart before you now and evermore.” ( Cranmer)
Coincidentally, my computer now says, “Welcome to Windows 10!”