How to Change the World

We all want a better world, right?

But what does a “better world” look like?  And how do we get there? 

Ironically, those who are most passionate about improving the world often end up in angry fights over whose version of “better” should prevail.  So, nothing changes.

As a Christian, I believe that the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, is the one hope for peaceful and legitimate world change, not because Christians will dominate in an ideological power struggle, but because Jesus already permanently changed the world at the cross by defeating sin and death and by exposing the powerlessness of what we call power.

Jesus rejected the use of politics, position, wealth and celebrity to achieve his world-changing work.  He lived on this earth, but he operated from the perspective of heaven. He possessed infinite divine power but lived a life of complete surrender.   He was a leader who considered himself a servant.  He created the earth and all that is in it, yet he wandered from town to town depending on the hospitality and generosity of others.

Jesus changed the world by rejecting the ways of the world.

So, what does that mean for Christians today?

James Davison Hunter, in his book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World puts forth a theology of faithful presence as a model for Christian influence in the world.  (I highly recommend the book, but be advised that it’s not a quick read.)

Hunter argues that Christians have continually attempted to use politics, power, money and celebrity to further God’s Kingdom.  It doesn’t work.  It has never worked. To fight for Christian dominance in the context of earthly power structures is to validate the very strongholds Christians are fighting against.

The incarnation, Jesus as God faithfully present with us, is a better model for an impactful Christian life.  No matter where we live, what we do, or how much money we have, we can be vehicles for the continuation of God’s world-changing work when we live as Christ’s faithful presence in the world.

There’s much more to it, of course, but perhaps you’ll get the idea from the following quote from a second century anonymous letter to Diognetus, possibly Marcus Aurelius’s tutor, describing the faithful presence of early Christians:

Lord, may I learn to live a life of faithful presence in the world.

What do you think?  How should Christians seek to be agents of change in the world?

10 thoughts on “How to Change the World

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  1. You have said very succinctly what we all need to remember: government is not the institution God chose to bring his kingdom to the earth. Christ created the church and chose it to be the instrument of transformation that brings his kingdom near. I have many friends who actually believe that the government can do social services better than the church, and they look at me very strangely when I ask, “but can they bring Christ to the people?” One thing I really love about the book of Mark is the emphasis on the fact that when Jesus spoke, the kingdom of God drew near to people. Our mission is not to be sure people eat, even though that is a very important work for us. Anybody can share food. Only Christians can share Christ.

    1. The relationship between the church and government is complex, and Christians disagree over it. But, as you point out, Jesus was pretty clear that he was bringing the Kingdom of God and he was not at all interested in the power of earthly kingdoms. In our “Christian” democracy perhaps we’ve lost the distinction. Now that our culture is “post-Christian,” we might have a perspective a little more like that of early Christians. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi Judy! I really appreciate this word of encouragement–that I don’t need money, power, fame to be used of God to make a difference; that maybe my little daily blog has influence for positive impact, i.e., God’s love and Grace. Thank you, Sister–God bless you Big–love, sis Caddo

    1. Your blog most certainly has Kingdom influence, Caddo. I’m constantly amazed by the truth you communicate with so few words! Blessings to you, Caddo.

  3. I do love your musings, Judy. Tonight I have just come from a Sunday evening praise service for recovering drug users and alcoholics. We, the band, were supposed to bring the blessing by way of using our gifts; however, it turned out, as it does with each time we lead worship for them, that we walk away blessed mightily. And so I am humbled.

    I once heard somewhere that doing God’s work means getting out of the way and letting Him use me. It is not about me or us, and what we can “do”; it is about what He can do with a body that is ready and willing. It saddens me when Christians dispute over issues where their goals are one in the same.

    We must be prepared to change the world, but we must allow the one who Sovereign do the changing.

    Bless you, my friend,

    ~ Cara

    1. So true, Cara! I love your observation that we can’t out-bless God. I’ve had the same experience, thinking I’m the bless-er when I’m really the bless-ie. I’m amazed that God seems to want to work through the likes of us. I guess that makes Him all the more awesome! I didn’t know you are a musician as well as a writer – sounds like you’re using all of your talents to the glory of God. May he work mightily through you!

  4. I believe we change the world one person at a time through preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. It worked for the early disciples, who it was said about: “They turned the world upside down.”

    Plus, I’d love to be a part of a group who followed what Diognetus wrote in his letter.

    1. Hi Larry,
      As I read that letter, I wonder what the world would be like if Christians really followed Jesus like that. Maybe we’ve gotten a little too comfortable in our “Christian” culture.

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