“Everybody wants to change the world, nobody wants to do the dishes.” -Shane Claiborne
“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” -Yogi Berra
One of the most notable ways that humans have changed the world in the last hundred years is the way we talk about changing the world. In the 19th century nobody was really talking like this. In the 19th century there were only four books written with a mention of “changing the world.” In the last few decades we’ve written over a million!
Andy Crouch in his book Culture Makers gives a few examples of these books, The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention that Changed the World. Twelve Lesbians Who Changed the World, Five Speeches That Changed the World , or my favorite Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World.
When did we start letting this get by our editors? Does anybody really think Mauve changed the world?
But under these titles and over-used language is an idea that runs deep in our bones. The world is not right, and we can change it.
But can we? Really? My generation has a lot of confidence. We grew up on Mr. Roger’s telling us we were special and we believed him. Often we forget that we are just one of seven billion people who are alive today. And that really our lives, at their best, are just a small drop in a ocean of God’s reality.
There are 1.5 Million books that in the Harvard Library that are about Changing the world.
And not one of them was written before 1900.
Andy Crouch has a great word of caution for all us world changers though. He points out that none of us know what we are really doing. We had no idea that inventing the Freeway would create the Fast-food phenomenon and the rise of obesity, or that the invention of the phone would make also lead to children moving away from families.
We have not come to terms with the fact that for all our best intentions the world will change us, much more than we will change it. In the words of Andy Crouch:
“Beware of world Changers, they have not yet learned the true meaning of sin.”
In the Palace, Under The Cross
Growing up one of my favorite stories was Esther. It’s a story that can rival any Disney screenplay because it’s got everything: good vs. evil, powerful vs. weak, romance and humor, and a girl who is asked to risk everything to save the people she loves.
If you’ve never heard the story, go back and read it sometime, it is brilliant. But the part I want to emphasize today is when Ester finds out that her husband the King is going to kill the Jews (without knowing she is one of them). Her uncle talks her into telling the King that she is also a Jew. Even though she could die too.
But she does it, she leverages the little bit of influence she has to serve the few people she can. Even though it could cost her her life. In fact, this is what Ester says:
Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
If I perish, I perish.
Did you know that Ester is called Queen 14 times in this book, and 13 of those times come after she lays her life on the line!
Her initial instincts are for self-preservation and safety, but when she risks her own life in service to the greater good, she suddenly becomes known as the queen.
This is the theme of the Bible, it is the undoing of the original sin of pride and hubris. We don’t know the unintended consequences for what we do…and what starts with the greatest intentions can turn into a destructive force. Unless we are willing to change the way we think about changing the world.
Because Sacrificial Service is the way of Jesus, the way God is going to change the world is going to be through this way. It will be by men and women laying down their lives in service and sacrifice for the common good.
I love the way that N.T. Wright says this:
If we are to be kingdom-announceres, modeling the new way of being human, we are also to be cross bearers. This is a strange and dark theme that is also our birthright as followers of Jesus. Shaping our world is never for a Christian a matter of going out arrogantly thinking we can just get on with the job reorganizing the world according to some model we have in mind. It is a matter of sharing and bearing the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may be brought to bear healingly upon the world at exactly that point…Because as he himself said, following him involves taking up the cross, we should expect, as the New Testament tells us repeatedly, that to build on his foundation will be to find the cross etched into the patter of our life and work over and over again.
So stop trying to change the world, serve it.