Change the World
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Again, Jesus followers are called to be salt and light and out of their being, do. This is just who they are; they can’t help themselves. It pours out of them as a result of their inner life being made new by Jesus. Christians who are salt and light exist as such in their communities and all their spheres of influence. This is God’s method of reconciling the world to himself and ultimately changing the world. Jesus didn’t prescribe an expedited, 10 step process to change the world. Instead, he calls his followers to the long game—living as salt and light, transforming their spheres of influence, one sphere at a time.
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
This is a whole different strategy than the “change the world” narrative we often hear and see. The underlying assumption, it seems to me, is a hope that one day an individual can so expand her influence that she has the opportunity to impact literally millions of people. The question isn’t, “Does God do this?” Of course he regularly does so in Scripture (think Moses, Abraham, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul). The question is, “Should this be our aim as individuals pursuing God’s calling?” There are many reasons why I believe this aim to be misplaced. Not the least of which is the undue pressure it places on believers who have a “smaller calling” to fulfill. Instead, our aim needs to be faithfulness in whatever tasks God calls us to for his kingdom.
In his book Culture Making Andy Crouch helpfully compares the lives of two of the most influential women in the 20th century: Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, the princess and the nun. The two women died within a week of each other, Diana tragically in a car accident frantically trying to escape the paparazzi and Teresa quietly in a convent in Calcutta. The point here isn’t to disparage either one of them, instead to simply say for all of us one path to influence is entirely attainable, while the other is virtually impossible. Attaining Diana’s position as a source of influence is as statistically close to an impossibility as it gets. Mother Teresa however, gained her influence by sacrificial love, radical generosity, and charity. These are entirely attainable for all of us. Andy Crouch summarizes this idea, “For nearly all of us, becoming a celebrity is completely, categorically impossible. For all of us becoming a saint is completely, categorically possible. So why are so many trying to become a celebrity and so few trying to become saints?” Good question! Instead of trying to change the world, start by changing your world and being salt and light in your immediate spheres of influence.
ff to 5:38 for additional content
For additional content today I’ve linked you to another podcast from this culture moment.
Think about your concept of changing the world. Do you feel overwhelmed with lofty goals you’ve consciously or unconsciously set for yourself? Are you content to be faithful in being salt and light in the environments God has you in? This is kinda the opposite of a self-help, you can change the world talk, but I think that hyperbolic language often leaves us feeling unaccomplished and like a failure, when in reality we just need to focus on being salt and light where God has us today.