“Yes, but what can I do to change the world?”
I am asked this question a lot, and I’ll be honest—recently, it has been a difficult question to answer. In the midst of overwhelming oppression and injustice such as we have witnessed in our country in recent months, it is difficult to see how anything we do as individuals can make any kind of difference in the lives of others. Sometimes it seems like nothing we can do is big enough to bring about the kind of systemic change that is need to make the world a better place. And let’s face it, politically, socially, economically and environmentally, things seeminly are in a constant state of turmoil and madness and we feel powerless to do anything about it.
Still, we self-proclaimed followers of Christ claim as our own Jesus’ call to serve the least, the last and the lost. We remember Jesus’ when he said in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of these, we do to him, and whatever we withhold from others, we withhold from Jesus. As United Methodists, we are partularly interested in changing the world, because our own mission is to “transform the world” by making disciples of Jesus Christ through our witness and our love. But knowing what we’re supposed to do, and knowing how to do it are two different things.
I pondered this question recently as I was driving in the car listening to a new CD, which was actually a remix of an old CD I had loved in high school. I was struck again by these lyrics:
This heart still believes
That love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage and so many say
That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
It’s like trying to stop a fire with the moisture from a kiss
And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me
(“The Change” by Garth Brooks)
I love this song! It reminds me that hope is a very powerful thing, and that one of the gifts we have to offer this world is hope— hope that today is not the end of the story; hope that in the end, love wins—not hate or war-mongering or power-plays—but love;
hope that God is still here, carrying us through, crying with us when the pain is too much to bear, reminding us that all things will be made right and that eventually, the world will know peace. Hope gets you through when all else has failed.
This song also reminds me that we have much work to do. The truth is one person cannot do much to change the world or to solve its overwhelming problems. But one person can change life for another person, by offering a helping hand, by caring, by standing beside them when they feel alone, by fighting injustice with them and on their behalf, by pushing back against the systems that threaten to destroy them. It might not seem like a lot, but to that person, it’s everything. And if each of us is willing to put our lives on the line for just one person at a time, we would see that together, our collective power is great, and that by each of us offering ourselves to one person, the cumulative effect would be greater than we can imagine.
At the same time, we’ll find that by living for others and by standing up for what’s right, we will be less moved by the hatred and oppression that we see all around us. Giving and loving will save our own compassion, ensuring that we remain moved by the pain of others, that we will not grow numb or calloused by all that we see and experience. Even if we can’t singlehandedly change the world, we CAN ensure the world does not change what is good in us.
So how do we change the world? By doing just this one thing: love your neighbor, all the time, selflessly, and on purpose. Do this, and together, we can make the world a better place.
Love, Pastor Becca