Change the world

I am tired of the admonition to “change the world”. Everyone, or so it seems, is inviting me or telling me that I should get involved in changing the world. That the world needs change is not in question. Something is seriously wrong. I look at this world and I identify with the cry found in Isaiah:

“Open up, heavens, and rain. Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness! Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation; sprout right living.” – Isaiah 45:8

Perhaps you have noticed a contradiction. How can I be tired of the admonition to “change the world ” and yet see the world’s problems and want them replaced with “buckets of goodness”? I’ll try to answer that.

I’m tired of the admonition to change the world because of its implied subject – I am to change the world, or we are supposed to change the world. After calling on the clouds to pour out buckets of goodness and the earth to bloom salvation, Isaiah notes:
I, God, generate all this.
God can and does change the world. I am not tired of God changing the world, nor am I tired of trying to be some small part of that. Not at all. But the thought that I am to change the world makes me tired.

Here’s the problem. I don’t know the answers to the world’s problems, or Africa’s or even those of my home town. In fact, I’m not so sure that I could correctly identify all the problems let alone the answers to them. How could I change the world on so flimsy a basis? Or if I thought I understood the problems and knew the answers, why would I listen to others? Wouldn’t I consider their ideas or objections mere obstacles I needed to overcome? Wouldn’t I become a tyrant, albeit a very petty tyrant?

Well-known American journalist H. L. Mencken wrote:

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.
Others have pointed out the dangers of the “change the world” mindset in less dramatic terms. The former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, wrote:
If [help] can’t be free and silent, it is not kindness; it is something else. Blackmail is the closest it becomes.
She had experienced having Western benefactors tie lots of strings to international aid for her country because they thought that they alone knew the answers. Christian mission efforts are not immune to trying to change the world in ways that dominate others, often unintentionally.

When I first moved to Ghana, I was impressed by Ghanaian Christian leaders who welcomed Westerners like me, but who made it politely clear that they set the agenda. That did not mean that I had no voice, but it did mean that I should listen and seek to understand first. I was invited to speak, but my voice was not the most influential. I found that liberating.

Let me be clear, I don’t mean that I withdraw. In fact, I’m quite allergic to the idea that difficult tasks ought to be left to heroes or experts, even if we consult the latter. But mostly I have confidence in God. So, I try to connect people to God through his Word, together we seek God: then God changes us and our world.

Want to change the world? Join yourself to God.

I’m the only God there is— The only God who does things right and knows how to help. So turn to me… ‘Yes! Salvation and strength are in God !’” – Isaiah 45:18

One thought on “Change the world

  1. Great perspective builder Ed. I have always appreciated the way the God who saves you has taught you about His ways and the persons He uses to bring His salvation. “For consider your calling brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble….” He who calls accomplishes His purpose in the called and through the called by His power engaged with our weakness.

    Liked by 1 person

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