It’s a long title I know, but there is a reason for it to be so.
I have heard that question asked from time to time and always for the purpose of making a point. Apparently, there are those who are of the opinion that people are what they are and no matter how hard they try they can’t change.
And to prove their point they throw out the question, “Can a leopard change its spots?” Of course the answer is “no, it can’t.” A leopard will always be a leopard. No matter how hard it tries, a leopard can never be a panther or a lion or a tiger.
Therefore, some have decided that if a person comes from bad blood, he or she will always turn out bad. I kind of wish that philosophy would always ring true in a way, because my father, although he was always just a tenant farmer, he was a man of integrity.
Coming from such good blood would have meant that I would have always followed in his footsteps and been a man of integrity like my dad. But that wasn’t always the case.
I grew up in the church from the time I was 2 years old. That’s the time my parents started attending church. I sat under some pretty hard preaching during my pre-adolescent and my teenage years.
I lived a Christian life during those years because I was scared not to. I have always said that I got saved every time the church doors were open. I would go to the altar and repent. If I had thought a bad thought or done something I knew was wrong, I would run back to the altar the next service and repent again.
I went directly from high school to Bible school and my passion for repentance just got stronger. I had never known anything other than God and church. And anything beyond that fortified wall which surrounded my spiritual life was completely foreign to me.
My concept was that there were people who were good and people who were bad and “neither the twain shall meet.”
That was until I got just a little bit older and I ventured beyond that wall of protection and found that there were good people doing things that didn’t seem all that bad.
I suddenly found that I could no longer criticize or condemn Adam and Eve for wondering what made that one tree so desirable. And like Adam and Eve I convinced myself that stepping over to the other side just a little couldn’t hurt all that much, but it did.
The only thing I can relate it to is that I was like a fly that was lured to one of those old sticky flytraps that my mom used to hang in the corner of the kitchen when I was a kid.
From the first time I planted my feet where they didn’t belong, I was stuck in a trap that wouldn’t let me go. The harder I struggled to get loose, the more entangled I became.
Suddenly, Mamma’s little boy whom she was always so proud of was no longer the apple of her eye. She still loved me, but I don’t think she could have rightfully described her feelings toward her baby boy as “proud.”
I suddenly felt as if I had taken on the title of “the black sheep of the family.” She went from bragging on me to desperately praying for me. Whenever I would come home for a visit it was obvious that, just by the look on their faces, I had broken the hearts of my dear Christian parents.
And being from a small town, the stories and rumor mills had beat me home and there were those who wondered and some who still do, “can a leopard really change its spots?”
Moving back to my hometown I came to understand the Bible verse that says “A prophet is without honor in his own country.” But if there is anything my path has taught me, it has taught me God’s grace and forgiveness.
It has taught me that a leopard can indeed change its spots. And it has taught me that a heart black with sin, can once again be made whiter than snow.
I can no longer look down on someone else who is trying to put his or her past behind them. And I can no longer sit in the seat of judgment and condemnation toward those who are trying to live right before God.
Can a leopard change its spots? That’s for each one to decide for him or her own self. But I do know this, a black sheep can be made whiter than snow by God’s forgiving grace.