Must I Really Change the World?

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  


Rebecca LuElla Miller said... June 19, 2008 at 11:13 AM  

I'm glad I have subscribed to your blog on Bloglines or I would have missed out on this excellent post. Your point that we are to engage in acts of love and kindness in spite of the coming destruction brought to mind Jeremiah. God told him to prophesy and added that no one would believe him and change. Well, maybe not "no one." But the nation wouldn't repent, and Jeremiah wasn't even to pray that they would.

Little did Jeremiah know that his words, God-breathed as they were, would be impacting people centuries later.

No telling what miraculous plans God has in store for the simple acts of kindness we can show to lost sinners in need of a Savior.


Carrie K. said... June 19, 2008 at 12:34 PM  

I don't mind the blog break if it means more books! When can we expect the newest from you?

Athol Dickson said... June 19, 2008 at 1:47 PM  

Interesting riff on the blog, Becky. Thanks for adding that.

Carrie, I'm not completely certain on the publication date. The next one will be with a new publisher (Howard Books, which is a Simon & Schuster imprint) so there has been a short delay. Ideally, my plan is to get one out every 12 months or so, but this time there might be an 18 month separation. So...sometime toward the middle of 2009 is my best guess. I'll post the date when I know for sure.

Thanks so much for your interest!

Kay said... June 20, 2008 at 9:20 AM  

Good to see you!
I can't wait to read this new book! Love and all its definitions and how it plays out in real life has been a big theme in my life lately. God is really teaching me some things.
Excellent post.
I also had the thought that if we truly love, we may not make any difference in the big picture, but we can certainly make all the difference to one person.

Nicole said... June 25, 2008 at 7:09 AM  

I'm a firm believer in the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit. If He is behind our kindnesses, our love, our reaching out to the lost, whatever we do will not fail or be wasted even if we cannot see the results in this lifetime.

Anna said... June 28, 2008 at 9:48 AM  

I can't wait to read it! You are definitely one of my favorite authors!
Thanks for the input on my post about genres. I look forward to reading the books you recommended!

Mocha with Linda said... July 4, 2008 at 6:55 AM  

Came this way via Angie Hunt and the dedication of Tom Morrisey's new book Wind River. Although as a CFBA reviewer I should have been here before now! LOL

Anyway, this is an incredible post. I may take it to our Bible Study class on Sunday. Especially in a political year, it's easy to forget the mandate that God gave us to spread His love. For example, I can't see Jesus picketing an abortion clinic. He'd be inside ministering to the hurting.

Kay Day said... July 12, 2008 at 7:52 PM  

Congratulations on the Christy!!

Accidental Poet said... July 15, 2008 at 11:06 AM  

Athol, I just read The Cure, and every time I walk by it, I stop and think what a creative way it is to say "Jesus is the answer to alcoholism".

And I love Riley Keep.

Thank you for your obedience in writing it.


kathy said... July 25, 2008 at 2:42 PM  

I missed you at ICRS this year but they did give me a copy of your book.

Anonymous said... July 31, 2008 at 9:49 PM  

Hello.....hello.........hello......Do you yet live? (That's some famous quote, but I forget from where. Or maybe not). We miss you here on the blog. Beverly told me you won an award! Congratulations! I'm so happy for you! Hope you and Sue are well.
Laura S.

MissDaisyAnne said... September 9, 2008 at 1:22 PM  

Hello, I am currently reading your book "The Cure", I am on page 114. I was happy to see that you have a blog!
I don't want to change the world, I just want the world to see Jesus in me.
I will post on "The Cure" soon.
Happy writing!

Tim George said... October 7, 2008 at 6:56 AM  

I am fascinated with the concept of your new novel and look forward to reading it. It's interesting that the TV series, Heroes, seems to recognize the same problem of "saving the world", though from a secular viewpoint.

Kay Day said... January 8, 2009 at 4:13 PM  

I would bug you to blog more, but I am eager to get this next book! Any idea when it will be available?

Athol said... January 8, 2009 at 5:37 PM  

LOST MISSION should hit the stores this September, Kay. And yes, I'm still completely focused on it. Wish I had enough time to blog as well, but I'm a SLOW writer and for some reason this novel has been a tough one to complete.

Thanks for asking!

Kay Day said... May 18, 2009 at 4:17 PM  

Coming in August! I see it in the CBD catalog.

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