Stop Trying To Save The World
Last year was hard. So far, this year has been hard. It's been frustrating and confusing and scary. For lots of reasons. Lots. (We don't need to get specific about them.) It can be easy to look at the news and feel hopeless and helpless.
Even as Jesus-followers, people who know we have hope and ultimate victory in Christ, we can feel out of sorts. We see evil and darkness and a world spiraling further away from Jesus. We want to do something and yet it can seem like nothing is working, nothing is making an impact.
Maybe we are thinking too big. Maybe we need to stop trying to save the world.
Hear me out. I am not saying there aren't big things that need addressing or change. But, individually, trying to change the whole world gets really daunting and exhausting and hopeless. So maybe we should stop and rethink our approach.
"He who saves one man saves the world entire." - Schindler's List
Recently my husband was having a conversation about just this with some of his friends. They were tired and frustrated and scared. As Christians we talk about love and doing good, but what does that really mean? What does that look like in a way that is effective. (Because I don't think some of what we are trying these days is working. And if you want a deeper explanation on my thoughts on that read this or watch this.) So his friends asked my husband a question, "well then, what do we do?"
My husband replied, "we focus on one heart at a time."
Instead of trying to save or change the whole world, why don't we focus on one person who needs love. One neighbor who needs help. One friend who needs Jesus. After all, technically didn't Jesus already save the world? So, it probably doesn't need me to be another messiah. I do not have the wherewithal to be anyone's messiah. Nor am I the Holy Spirit for anyone. (He can do just fine on His own and He tells me so often). But I can set aside the business of behavior modification that we all really like to get in to, and take up the business of soul transformation. (Which is really all His business, I just get to be a small part of it.)
One heart at a time.
Here's the thing. We can't change or save anyone. But we can introduce them to the One who can. I get it, sometimes that doesn't even feel like enough because we are an impatient people who like everything to happen in the blink of an eye. (Even within ourselves.) We want to see the fruits of our labor right away. One heart at a time takes time. Lots of time. Because Jesus starts on the inside of a person. He starts with introducing Himself and His love and grace and power. Then, as we get to know more about Him, he starts to introduce us to who we really are and who He created us to be. Then, we start to change our thinking and our behavior starts to change. It's slow and messy, but it's His way. You can't rush it.
And you can't force it. We can't make someone believe in Jesus or love Jesus or obey Jesus. We just can't. But we can show them Jesus. We can help them feel Jesus. We can nudge them along the path that we are also walking. (Please don't forget that each and every one of us is as much in need of our Savior today as we ever were. None of us have arrived. We are all works in progress.)
One heart at a time, we can make Jesus known. We can help people grow--even as we grow. Iron sharpens iron, after all. We don't have to be perfect. We don't have to act perfect. If you don't have all the answers, say so. If you make a mistake, admit to it. Have grace for yourself and for others. It's so hard, I get it. (I did say it would be messy.)
Instead of shouting and complaining and fretting and fearing...make Jesus known. Not with empty platitudes and masks of piety. But with rolling up our sleeves in relationship. By getting to know someone and loving them right where they are. By talking to them about God's Word with grace and care. By showing humility and compassion. By binding wounds and making peace. (He did say "blessed are the peacemakers.")
Let's turn off our screens and newsfeeds and get back to actual relational community; doing life with people. The way Jesus did life with His twelve disciples. (Walking with them, talking with them, guiding them, teaching them, challenging them, loving them.) And let's do it in such a way that makes Jesus irresistible. In a way that takes that one person by the hand and leads them into the life He has for them, not just the life that will make us more comfortable. Because doing life with people will get uncomfortable, but as long as we keep Jesus in focus and the grace flowing, a little discomfort will probably only mean we are doing it right. (And it can't just be with people who look like us and act like us and think like us. We have to stretch a little. Or maybe even a lot.)
"Don't stand on issues, walk with people." - Carlos Whitaker.
A mentor of mine often tells a story of a teenage foreign exchange student. She was not a believer and found herself paired with a Christian family. For the year she was with them, they would take her to church every Sunday. Every Sunday the pastor would have an altar call and offer a chance at salvation. Every Sunday she would stay in her seat. Finally, the last Sunday before her return home, she sat in the same church and the same pastor made the same altar call. This time, she went to the front and gave her heart to the Lord.
Afterwards, the pastor asked her what he had said that day that made the difference, that made her come forward. She respectfully told him it wasn't anything he had said. She told him, "Every day for the past year [the family I have been living with] has shown me love. Their actions have built a bridge from their heart to mine. Today, I just let Jesus walk over it."
See, it wasn't a sermon or motivational social media post (not that those are necessarily bad) that made the difference for this young woman. It was relationship. It was a family choosing to love her--one girl--to be an example of Christ to her. That's what built a bridge. That's what made her want Jesus. That's what inevitably began transformation in her life. (Who knows the impact it had beyond her? In her own family or community?)
Jesus works with that. He fills in our gaps and gives us wisdom and strength. With His help we can build bridges from our heart to someone else's and connect them to Him. The more we help people connect to Jesus and the more we teach people His Word and walk with them through the hard work of obedience to Him...the more our world might change.
So (maybe, just maybe) stop trying to save the world. Start living to reach one heart. (And then another...and another...and I think you get it.)
"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”"
PS: For the person who thinks this all sounds good but says what about (fill in the blank with whatever issue might be super important to you) I think we can still do that work one heart, one person at a time. I also think focusing on loving individuals will lead us to opportunities to make real impact in those areas. I say that as someone who has walked with people through struggles with sexuality, through decisions over abortion, through conversations on racism, through dealing with addiction, etc. (And it gets uncomfortable and messy and sometimes it hurts.) I think those personal conversations can do way more good than we tend to believe. I think they can have profound impact on the individual and therefore the whole. That doesn't mean we don't do more, when and where we can do more--that we aren't advocates for what is good and right. Speak, educate, donate, volunteer. But don't neglect people. As Jesus-followers we have to walk with people, first and foremost. When we move away from loving individuals, we get caught up in rhetoric and comfort and the bias of our own echo chambers. Walking with people, focusing on real hearts and souls, also helps keep our own hearts soft to those for whom Jesus died.
PPS: The included links are to messages I had the honor to teach at my church and I share them merely as my own expounded thoughts on the topic...thoughts I have worked as best as I can to base in God's Word. It's never to spotlight myself because I am nothing special. I'm just a woman trying to make Jesus happy. I encourage you to most importantly study God's Word for yourself on all things including what it means to love God and love our neighbor (Jesus said these were the greatest commandments after all.). These messages were just easy for me to find and link between writing this post and homeschooling my kiddos. It won't hurt my feelings at all if you don't click on them. :)