According to the experts it takes 21 days to change a habit. It sounds really simple but if you have ever tried to create a new habit or break an old one it really is difficult.
In our reading from Romans today St Paul asks the question ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ and one answer might be that it is hard to break a habit. Perhaps you are thinking that sin is for the serious stuff and it is but if we change the word sin for habit we might see more of what we need to change and why it is so hard.
Some habits are simple and small. I have been trying really hard to remember to put the house keys in the new key pot by the front door when I come in the house rather than spending ages trying to find which jacket pocket they are in. It is very simple. Come in and put them away. But it isn’t. I think it is safe to say that changing this habit is work in progress….
Losing my keys when I need to get out is an easy bad habit to spot and we can laugh about it but when we try and see our deep seated habits which have become our worldview they are really elusive. We find ourselves saying ‘but that is the way I’ve been brought up or that is the way I do things, everyone does it.’ Yet what if the way we do things hurts other people? What if the way we do things exposes an underlying racism, sexism or inequality? Now we are in sin territory.
If it is hard to learn to how to tidy up house keys it is going to be really hard to change society. If we get that far at least we are being realistic about what we are about as we try and live more Christ like lives; as we aim to become more like Jesus. St Paul’s argument in Romans about how we change as Christians is that the change starts at our baptism. Good intentions are in there. Maybe to update the image it is a bit those intentions are a bit like programming the sat nav and what we need is a voice that tells us when we have gone off course from ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and we can start to do something about it however hard that will be.
If it takes 21 days to change a habit at least we know habits can be changed. The first step is to recognise there is a habit that needs to change. The outrage over the death of George Floyd may have made those of us who are white realise that we have not seen or named the racism in this country. The pause travel may have made us think about climate change and how we might need to change the way we live. Noticing our habits and sins is a good first step. Now we need to address them.