My Resolution: Change the World – A Look at Spirituality in the Everyday World
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
Some of you likely participated in making the traditional New Year’s resolutions. Most of those resolutions, I am sure, are praiseworthy. The top ten list of resolutions people make from year to year are as follows:
- Lose weight
- Stop smoking
- Stick to a budget
- Save or earn more money
- Find a better job
- Become more organized
- Exercise more
- Be more patient at work/with others
- Eat better
- Become a better person
In what some might call “characteristic” of my rather overly-ambitious nature, my resolution is to change the world. I share this with you because I suggest it should be your resolution as well. Let me explain:
The Christian Calling
My ambition to change the world is sensitized by the calling I have — not just as a minister, but as a child of God. Jesus first gave me the idea when He said I was the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). I thought I had an “out” on this obligation when He assigned the disciples the task to “go into all the world.” Not being one of the original disciples I deduced that changing the world was their job, not mine. But I then learned I was charged with doing good to all people and there is no better good than knowing Jesus (Galatians 6:10).
Thinking Outside the Pew
A terrible disconnect often occurs with Christians between their worship life and their daily life. The “disconnect” is rooted in the illusion that there are or can be two lives. Worship is most readily identified as the time spent in the pew. It is a focused hour of praising God and learning more about him. It is a time viewed by many as the “spark plug time” of our spiritual journey. It fires off well during that one hour and if all goes well it keeps the engine running until reconnected the next week.
The fallacy is that the worship service is not “the” worship event of the week but “a” worship event in the week. The reality is that our entire lives — each moment — are to be absorbed with worshipping God (Romans 12:1). The Apostle Paul fortified this directive with the reminder that our bodies are temples, places of worship (1 Corinthians 6:19). He prodded us to worship by glorifying God in all the things we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Passive Acceptance of Defeat
With the passage of time the Christian community passively allowed the Christian experience to be defined by the world as something private, personal, exclusive, unique, and separate from the day-to-day reality of living. Mantras like “it is a matter of interpretation,” “keep religion out of the workplace,” and “faith has no place in public policy” have all fortified the notion that Christian spirituality is on a switch, activated when in one setting (i.e., the church) and deactivated when around others not of the church.
The result sadly is the notion that “this” is “church” and “that” is “business.” We don’t often see the spirituality in being a mechanic, math teacher, waitress, janitor, executive, and so forth. Yes, we readily acknowledge an obligation to keep the moral framework of our Christian principles (the Commandments). That, however, hardly distinguishes us from the unbelievers who often share the same moral standards.
Called to Be Something More
Our spirituality does not allow us to seek mere moral victories when our society begins to slide. Abortion is a moral failing in our society, as is terminating the lives of the elderly and disabled because of their perceived lack of desired quality. But correcting this immorality hardly meets the mission of changing the world — not in the way God wants it changed.
Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) How does “see[ing] your good deeds” result in praise for God? If the unbeliever does not know God but sees your good deeds, he will not know to praise God. There is something more involved.
The Apostle Peter wrote, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Why would anyone ask you for the hope that you have? It has to do with the way you let your light shine. The unbeliever sees optimism in the face of despair. He or she sees hope contrasted with what is perceived as a hopeless situation.
Every Moment Worship
This type of worship, light-shining with hope in the face of hopelessness, is not the Sunday morning experience. This is a worship that occurs constantly outside the walls of the church building. It is the worship evident in day-to-day activity in which your words and actions are in the public spotlight.
This is the subtle and not-so-subtle establishment of a world-improving morality that is rooted not in opinion or “community standard” but in a faith that cannot help but shine (Acts 4:20). This is a genuine changing process that begins internally and becomes manifest externally.
External change is fun. It often provides immediate satisfaction. In fact, the more immediate and obvious the change, the more it is satisfying. Tearing down a building to remove an eyesore is often more pleasurable than the painstaking and time-consuming task of building a better building. The reward may be greater but it doesn’t come fast enough.
When it comes to changing the world we are also tempted to measure progress by dramatic external changes. We have a lot of external things that need changing. Abortion and euthanasia have no place in God’s creation. No matter how radically some wish to redefine the beginning of life, the destruction of embryos for testing or because they are “leftover” from an in-vitro procedure, they are still wrong. Hatred, murder, stealing, selfishness, obscenity, heartlessness, and deceit are all wrong. We could rush to pass laws forbidding such things to grant that immediate satisfaction of changing the externals. We do need such laws but we cannot accept the illusion that external evidence means real change has taken place.
The Apostle Paul said we preach the Word with “great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). He also wrote, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:9-12).
Changing the world is a commitment for the long haul. It means rejoicing in external changes but never taking our eye off the ultimate goal of the internal change that can come only through faith. We correct, rebuke, encourage, and witness with a spirit of humility (Philippians 2:3-4), a spirit of sacrifice (John 15:13), and a spirit of reflective love (1 John 3:11-18).
Did I call this resolution to change the world a New Year’s resolution? No! Something like this requires a daily resolve to leave behind the mistakes and laxness of yesterday and to start again (Philippians 3:13). It may be past New Year’s Day, but the need for the resolution is daily. Changing the world may seem like an impossible task, but through faith from God and in God you beat the world and become a changing force within it.
“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5).
May 4, 2018
August 31, 2017