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. The solution to racism is equality. The solution to poverty is charity. The solution to terrorism is…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 the five minute scream-and-hang-up session you just directed at your father, or the money you just cheated from your subordinate, no less grieving to God than murder and hate.
You have to see the problem through God’s 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 source: the heart of man.
I know this is a downer. But we’ve 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. We outlawed slavery; a century later it was segregation. What we were really trying to outlaw was hatred. Just ten years ago, we thought we had it beaten. Today we shake our heads at our naivete. Our efforts 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. Christ’s teachings 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 author and fuel source. They need something robust, something overcoming, something greater than them or than ourselves: his indwelling of our hearts, fueling those teachings, purging and kicking out the darkness right at its source.
And that is great news, for the power of Christ endowed to his people is a far better hope to right these wrongs than anything we could do without him. But we must first proceed in a proper understanding of where the true power lies, and we must then cast off the temptation (and temptation it is) to operate without him.
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 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.
Are you trying to fix starvation without the gospel? How many well-meaning charities and research ventures have sprung up to feed the world, only to become bloated with “administrative costs” and fall into the sights of the watchdogs? The Fall of Man ambushes us at every turn, ever creative in its determination to twist humanity’s morals as it says, “We don’t need a 2,000-year-old book to teach us these things”.
This understanding is important, because without it, 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. But we’re getting nowhere. Massacres continue, bosses destroy their employees, parents neglect their children, friends gossip and betray…it’s a madhouse. I don’t think I’m overstating my case here. Send money to undeveloped countries and it disappears into the warlord’s coffers. Offer sensitivity training and it bounces off hardened hearts.
Christians’ attempts to impose Jesus’ commands on others fail too. State faith led to the Spanish Inquisition; the Westward Expansion gave way to the horrible boarding-school cruelty towards the native peoples; writing traditional marriage into the Constitution won’t 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.
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.
If you want to change the world, the answer is telling it about Jesus. Whatever evil must be stopped, let it be done through Jesus.
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 bigger generosity than Jesus, with whom we will never hunger or thirst again.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Anything else is Nyquil.