How do we change the world?

For much of my life, I held the opinion that Christians were wise to keep their noses out of matters of state and culture. After all, Planet Earth, along with its unsavory inhabitants, is headed to hell in a handbag. A literal hell, with flames and tears and gnashing teeth.

Therefore, we should spend our limited time wisely, plucking souls from the gas-soaked Louis Vuitton before the match is lit, moving as many people as possible from lost to found.

What is the point of pushing social and political change in light of the reality of hell, to make the ride a little more comfortable?

How valuable is a vote or a tiny carbon footprint when eternity is crouching around the corner? Christians should be planting churches, not running for office or helping Al Gore combat Global Warming. Right?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was operating from an Either/Or worldview, either focus on the culture or focus on God’s kingdom. But much of the faith experience—much of life in general—is actually Both/And.

Grace and Truth.

Justice and Mercy.

The Here-And-Now and The Hereafter. 

John Piper says that “Christians tend to be in two camps: Caring only about suffering now or caring only about suffering in eternity.”

Sadly, for years I proudly pitched my tent at Camp Eternity—not that Camp Now is a better alternative.

Ignoring eternity to clean up the present is like dressing someone up for a car wreck.

So, what is the proper approach?

Author Eric Metaxes has written a fantastic essay on changing the world by “proving faith through works.” In it, he presents the way in which William Wilberforce and his group of influential friends, known as the Clapham Circle, managed to leverage their influence in politics, literature, and the arts to bring about remarkable cultural change.

“For one thing, Wilberforce’s efforts led to the British abolition of slavery itself 26 years later, and inspired the abolitionist cause across Europe and in the United States, too. Years later, Lincoln and Frederick Douglas hailed him as their hero. But more amazing, and harder to fathom, was that far beyond abolition, Wilberforce and his friends had a monumental impact on the wider British culture, and on the world beyond Britain, because they succeeded not only in ending the slave trade and slavery, but in changing the entire mindset of the culture.”

What if Wilberforce had taken a different approach to world change? “We need to band together and pray for Britain and the slave traders. If they get saved they will realize the sin of owning people and eventually slavery will come to an end.”

I have no doubt that Wilberforce was a man of prayer, that He appealed to God to change the sinful hearts of men, but at some point he left his prayer closet and went to work. He spent nearly three decades fighting for the freedom of the oppressed.

Should believers introduce people to The Living Water (Jesus) but ignore the millions who live without access to clean drinking water?

Should we pray for the sexually depraved among us but do nothing to rescue the women and children being sold into sex slavery?

Should we pray for our politicians but contribute nothing more than bitter rants about the removal of God from country?

The four Gospels present a Jesus with a sincere concern for both the future and current state of humanity. He taught his disciples to pray,

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:9-10 ESV)

Reading through the New Testament and studying church history, it is clear that the followers of Christ did more than commit this prayer to memory and recite it in corporate settings; they made it an endeavor.

So, should we wait for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to make “all things new,” to undo all that is wrong in the world, or should we join that mission already in progress?

Both/And.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Photo Credit: ant.photos (Creative Commons)

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2 responses to “How do we change the world?”

  1. Carol says :

    Bravo Anthony! I don’t think that there has ever been many people who have not struggled with this thought! My pastor of 23 years always encouraged us to chang the world through participation. He was shunned by many of his peers because he encouraged parents to send their kids to public school and to be involved in all the programs in order to show our city Christ. Today, that church has grown from 168 to about 500. Not because of programs but because of christians participating in the community as christians.

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