There’s a dangerous idea floating around.
It’s the idea that the world’s darkness can be overcome by anything but the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We seek spot welds, individual solutions to individual problems. Do we not? The solution to racism is equality. The solution to poverty is charity. The solution to terrorism is war/closed borders/isolationism/whatever your favorite politician is hawking. A different flavor soup for each symptom. John Lennon would have you believe that love is a key for every lock.
I’m not here to debate the validity of any of these. There’s something to each. Many seem to have the words of Jesus behind them, if you argue your case well enough.
But the scattershot approach is dangerous. It’s dangerous because the days are short, our energies precious, and false solutions are sucking them up.
We are right to be heartbroken and outraged about these symptoms. But…and I include myself in this…we are heartbroken and outraged selectively, about our preferred lineup of issues, colored by our upbringing and nationality and what not. We don’t see that the five minute scream-and-hang-up session you just directed at your father, or the money you just cheated from your subordinate, are no less grieving to God than murder and hate.
If you’re going to bring Jesus into it, you’re going to get more than you bargained for. You have to see the problem through his eyes.
And he’s got a much different take on what’s generating this mess.
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. (Matthew 15:18-19)
Every shade of evil in this world, has the same virus for a source: the heart of man.
I know this is a downer. But we’ve already tried viewing problems as compartmentalized sores, spawned by this social ill or that cultural misunderstanding, within man’s power to fix. It hasn’t worked. In the 1860’s we outlawed slavery; a century later it was segregation. What we were really trying to outlaw was hatred. Europe thought they had racism beaten, mocked America for lagging behind the curve. Today’s newspaper should be all we need to see the inadequacy of man’s efforts. They were like Nyquil on a deep, entrenched pneumonia.
But didn’t the teachings of Jesus include love for your fellow man? we might ask. Shouldn’t that be working?
The teachings of Jesus Christ cannot heal the world. Only he can, himself. His indwelling of our hearts, fueling those teachings, purging and kicking out the darkness right at its source.
This gospel is the solution. It’s not a non sequitur; it’s going for the root virus.
Are you trying to fix inequality without the gospel? It won’t work. It may go underground briefly, but it will only mutate, fester, reinvent, and resurface at another time.
Are you trying to fix starvation without the gospel? It won’t work.
Are you trying to fix governmental corruption without the gospel? It won’t work.
Are you trying to fix corporate greed without the gospel? It won’t work.
Are you trying to fix the drug problem without the gospel? It won’t work.
People are certainly trying, though. And that’s exactly why it will never work: they want to do it without God. “We don’t need a 2,000-year-old book to teach us these things”. And the book isn’t having it. John Eldredge put it best: “God has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence and life within you.”
This is important to understand, because without that understanding, Christians merely sound like jerks for ignoring all the positivity and niceness that Godless man is trying to bring to the world. They speak of love, kindness, love, purpose, and more love. It sounds great; I sound like a downer. But we’re getting nowhere. Massacres continue, bosses destroy their employees, parents neglect their children, friends gossip and betray…it’s a madhouse. Send money to undeveloped countries and it will disappear into the coffers of the warlord. Offer sensitivity training and it will bounce off hardened hearts.
Christians’ attempts to impose Jesus’ commands on others fail too. Prohibition tanked; state faith led to the Spanish Inquisition; writing traditional marriage into the U.S. Constitution won’t suddenly make gay relationships disappear. Both Christians and non-Christians want to get more Jesus into the world by their own hand. I don’t think evil is getting the memo.
We need something robust, something overcoming, something greater than we are.
Without Jesus’ salvation and indwelling, his teachings will meet with limited results. They were never intended to work outside of a relationship with him. He has decreed it so himself, so that we will not hijack them with pride but practice them in humility, with him as both author and fuel source.
Terrorism, hatred, poverty…these are not actually the world’s greatest tragedies. It’s the billions of people on a bullet train to eternal separation from Jesus, while we only see the chaos caused in its wake.
There is no justice greater than Jesus’ advocacy from the cross.
There is no better refuge from violence than Jesus, who can both defend and redeem.
There is no greater generosity than Jesus, with whom we will never hunger or thirst again.
If you want to change the world, the answer is telling it about Jesus. Not eliminating hate. Not bringing equality. Not valuing life, born or unborn. None of these things will heal like Jesus; none of them can be done without him. Not even embracing love, for Jesus has the corner on it. He is the epitome and personification of love.
Anything else is Nyquil.