How Not to Change the World

As I was growing up, the encouragement from others (specifically teachers and parents)  ingrained into every child was to change the world for the better. More specifically, children are told that to impact the world, they simply need to be themselves. This becomes the mantra utilized to motivate children through every age, every transition, and every step of their lives. Whether you agree or disagree with this means of inspiration from a biblical worldview (something I plan to look at more next week) there is little doubt to its prevalence in our society.
I remember buying into this philosophy as a child and now I find myself questioning it more. Because of its pervasiveness, it warrants a number of various considerations from us. Recently I find myself asking the question, “If the motivation for getting through life is to change the world, what constitutes failure?” Certainly not every person can live up to this standard of success that was placed upon them from an early age. So, how does a person not change the world?
I think the answer to that is quite simply: by being yourself. That answer is in direct contrast to the catalysts for change that is often preached as us. While the world preaches, “Go change the world by being yourself!” I am saying, “You can’t change the world by being yourself.”
The issue with this ongoing chant is that it fails to capture one of the main essences of the human heart: its sin nature. Our sin nature impacts our ability to impact the world in two ways. First it makes us self-oriented. Self-orientation means that we are unable to be oriented towards others. Even worse, sin impacts our ability to be oriented towards God (a necessary concept that will become clearer later). There is irony in the concept that to change the world one must be themselves, because the essence of such a statement says to impact others a person must focus on himself or herself, and not those that he or she is trying to change. Yet, this beautifully captures how the sin nature does not allow us to impact others.
The second impact of our sin is that it results in conformity to the world. Again, there is irony here. Recent years has seen a rise to the idea that every person should be unique and different. Such a pursuit of uniquness actually makes everyone the same. Ultimately sin, if not rightly treated, will lead to conformity to the world. The reality is that while sin is manifested differently in each of us, it is the same sin nature that impacts every aspect of our lives.
Sin then is an obstacle to all that we can do, and in particular here it creates a barrier to a person’s ability to impact others (i.e. change the world). Until sin is taken care of there will be no effect. That is to say, unless we are transformed, we cannot transform others. Although obviously the Lord is ultimately responsible for the act of transformation, our ability to be used by God can be stunted by our sin.
So where does this all lead us? To an argument that counters the cultural argument that we need to be ourselves. To change the world, you can’t be yourself, but instead must be like someone else. You must be like the Lord Jesus Christ. The reasoning behind this is twofold: First, only He can remove the sin that is a barrier in your life, and thus only he can be the one to transform your life. Second, it is only His work that can affect, individually the lives of persons, and collectively, the entire world.
While many great men have existed throughout the centuries, and many of them are remembered today in our history books, only one person has truly changed the world. It was the Lord Jesus Christ through His work. No man has ever had a greater impact than Christ, because His impact has eternal consequences. How to not change the world? Be yourself. Until we are eternally identified with Him, any effect we have apart from Him is at best, largely minor and ineffectual.
Photo “Change the World” courtesy of user Thomas Hawk and Flickr.