Must I Really Change the World?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
It’s been a long break as I had to focus on my current project, working title: Lost Mission. Thanks, Kay, for that post encouraging me to keep blogging. I certainly intend to do so, but only when I have something to say that seems worth saying. Some people have fascinating everyday lives; I’m pretty much a bump on a log. So there’ll be none of those daily musings on doing the laundry or walking the dog here. Also, I can only write here when I have some spare creative energy from my day job as a novelist. Unlike a few other writers (Angie Hunt and Robin Lee Hatcher come to mind) I can’t seem to juggle lots of writing projects all at once. For me, blogging steals creative thunder from the novel writing process, especially during the first draft. But that stage is almost finished now; I can see the ending clearly, so it’s possible to widen up my focus just a bit.
This new novel asks the question, “Are Christians supposed to change the world?” It may surprise some people, but my answer is . . . no, not really.
To explain, I need to define “the world”. It means the whole thing: believers, unbelievers, nature, everything that is lost and broken. In other words, Lost Mission asks the question, what is our responsibility to this world which was broken by the Fall? Hospitals, orphanages, and humanitarian initiatives of every kind throughout history testify to the Christian drive to fight against this fallen world’s corruption. But consider this:
Our own the scriptures say we cannot save this world. The Bible says this world will become progressively more corrupt until the end of days, when God will replace it altogether with a “new heaven and new earth”. If we read only those prophesies, it would seem pointless to try to resist the inevitably worsening corruption by concerning ourselves with earthly problems. God does not mean to save this world. He means to replace it.
However, the Bible is also filled with commandments for believers to engage in acts of love and compassion in spite of the coming destruction. In fact, one place tells us we will be rewarded or punished at the end of days in accordance with our response to those commands. (See Matthew 25:31-46) So basically, we are commanded to do love while also being told our loving acts will not hold back the ever-growing corruption of the world. It's a paradox. Why does the Bible call for loving social action in the face of certain failure?
There are two reasons, I think. First, Jesus says whenever we love the ill, the imprisoned, the poor, etc., we are really loving Him. (See the Matthew quote above.) Social action—loving our neighbor—is one of the main ways God wants to receive our love. Who knows why? You might as well ask why your lover wants flowers. It’s what our Father wants, and anyone who loves Him will long to give him what He wants. (John 14:23) Second, Jesus says we should do good acts so others will see and praise the Father, in other words, for evangelical reasons. (Matthew 5:16) The explanation for this is much more obvious: God loves our neighbor just as he loves us, so He does not want anyone to perish. (2 Peter 3:9)
Where we get into trouble is when we forget these underlying reasons for our work on earth, when we start thinking the work itself is the main thing, rather than seeing it purely as an extension of our love for God, and God’s love for us. That leads directly to the kind of superficial, hypocritical or judgmental behavior we evangelical Christians have unfortunately become stereotyped for. Every Christian who fits that stereotype (and there are many, sadly) believes he or she is living righteously. Inevitably, such Christians still feel a strong desire to change the world, but they have forgotten why it matters.
Here is my prayer for today:
Lord, teach me to love all of your creation from the deepest places in the ocean to the tallest mountaintop. Let me yearn to heal its wounds. Teach me to love my neighbor sacrificially, as I love myself. But above all else Lord, show me how to love you with my entire heart and soul and mind and strength, because unless I love you first like that, all my other loves are bound to fail.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives…” (2 Peter 3:10-12)
I’ll share more thoughts that I've been playing with in Lost Mission soon. It’s good to be back!
Posted byAthol Dickson at 10:20 AM