Three Ways to Transform Your World
Three Ways to Transform Your World
Martin Luther King Jr (1929–1968) lived and died to see society transformed. In 1964, he became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – for his work to end social segregation and discrimination.
He spoke powerfully and memorably of his dream that, one day, he would live in a nation where his children would ‘not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’.
He dreamt of a transformed world where everyone would be able to join hands and say, ‘Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’
Martin Luther King Jr was a follower of Jesus. His agenda was the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not just about the conversion of individuals – important though that is – but about the transformation of society.
1. Be a blessing to your nationProverbs 11:9-18
Your life can have an influence, not only on your own family and local community, but also on your city, and even on the whole nation.
The writer of Proverbs makes the point that how we live as individuals affects not only ourselves, but also the world around us – for good or for evil.
On the one hand, ‘when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices’ (v.10). And ‘by the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favour [because of them] the city is exalted’ (v.11a, AMP). On the other hand, ‘the mouth of the wicked’ can destroy a city (v.11b). And, ‘for lack of guidance a nation falls’ (v.14).
How then should you live? Don’t slander your neighbours, but rather exercise restraint and hold your tongue (v.12). Don’t gossip but be trustworthy in keeping secrets (v.13).
We all need wise, godly people around us to provide good advice: ‘Where no wise guidance is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety’ (v.14, AMP). If you have wise counsellors consult them often. If you don’t have them, ask God to provide you with such advisers.
Be kind-hearted (v.16) and sow righteousness (v.18). If you live like this, the whole world around you will be affected.
Lord, help me to be a good influence in my city and in my nation so that I may see the whole world around me transformed.
2. Break down divisions of every kindJohn 4:1-26
Every church should be an inclusive church because God’s love is radically inclusive. The church should be famous for its love. We should welcome people regardless of their gender, race or lifestyle. Jesus came to break down every barrier in our society.
Jesus’ fame was increasing. ‘The Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed... They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals’ (vv.1–2, MSG).
Jesus was not interested in rivalry, fame or competition: ‘When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee’ (v.3). He was very interested in helping one individual Samaritan. He takes time to minister to her. Mother Teresa said, ‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.’
In this encounter, Jesus demonstrated that one of the ways in which society will be transformed is by the breaking down of divisions.
- End the war between the sexes
Jesus had a prolonged conversation with a woman in public. This flew in the face of the conventions of the time. The strict rabbis forbade a rabbi even to greet a woman in public, let alone have a long conversation. When the disciples returned, they were ‘surprised to find him talking with a woman’ (v.27).
As John Stott wrote, ‘Without any fuss or publicity Jesus terminated the curse of the Fall, reinvested woman with her partially lost nobility and reclaimed for his new kingdom community the original creation blessing of sexual equality.’
The sexes should not be at war. As Pope Benedict XVI put it, ‘In Christ the rivalry, enmity and violence which disfigured the relationship between men and women can be overcome and have been overcome.’
- End racism, discrimination and apartheid
The division between Jews and Samaritans went back a long way. Samaritans were a despised and powerless minority – pushed down and without value. John explains that ‘Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans’ (v.9, MSG).
Jesus does not compromise on the truth: ‘Salvation is from the Jews’ (v.22). Nevertheless, he reaches out to this Samaritan woman. In doing so he breaks the curse of racial discrimination and apartheid. The transformation of society requires the breaking down of the walls of division of race and ethnicity.
- End class war and social division
God loves you regardless of your previous life or present lifestyle. Thank God, he loves imperfect people.
In asking her for water, Jesus is showing us how to approach people who are broken and wounded – not patronisingly as someone superior but humbly like a beggar.
This woman would have been a social outcast. With a history of broken relationships, rejected and mocked by her own people, she comes to draw water all alone at midday.
Not only did Jesus speak to a woman who was a Samaritan, he spoke with a ‘sinner’. This woman had led an immoral life. ‘You have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband’ (v.18). She has been divorced several times and is now living with a man to whom she is not married. Jesus does not compromise on the truth, but neither does he judge, condemn or reject the Samaritan woman because of her lifestyle or social position (cf. Mark 2:17; John 8:10–11).
The religious did not mix with ‘sinners’. By his interaction with this sexually promiscuous woman, Jesus breaks down yet another barrier. His love reaches to all sections of society – across the barriers of class, lifestyle and social position.
Ultimately, it is only the Holy Spirit who can bring about the transformation of society. It is the Holy Spirit who brings unity, breaking down the divisions of gender, race and social position. Those indwelt by the Holy Spirit should be at the forefront of the fight for gender, racial and social equality.
Jesus’ conversation with this woman was all about the Holy Spirit. She doesn’t need a lecture; she needs living water. He says to her, ‘All who drink this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (vv.13–14).
Jesus came to quench our thirst for acceptance, relationship and meaning. The life we receive is the life we give. We become a source of life for others.
The transformation of society starts with the Holy Spirit transforming our lives. It starts with drinking the water of life, which Jesus gives to everyone who believes in him. When the Holy Spirit comes to live within you he becomes a permanent spring of overflowing water throughout your life and into eternity.
You are transformed by the Holy Spirit and by your personal relationship with God. The word used for ‘worship’ here means ‘to go down on our knees, to draw close in an intimate relationship of love’ – we ‘must worship in spirit and in truth’ (v.24).
Lord, today I come to you and drink your living water. May this water flow out of my heart and transform all my relationships.
3. Cry out to God for good leadershipJudges 1:1-2:5
We live in a disordered and chaotic world – in some ways not very different to the world described in the book of Judges.
Entering the book of Judges is quite a shock. We find a mix of violence, rape, massacre, brutality, deceit and mayhem. We see how the people failed to get a grip on idolatry and sin when they settled in the promised land. Despite God’s warnings, they compromised with the religious and ethical practices of the people around them (2:1–2). Who then became ‘thorns in [their] sides and... a snare to [them]’ (v.3).
God calls you to be utterly ruthless about the bad stuff. He does not want us to compromise. He does not want you simply to cut down the areas of your life that you know are wrong, but to cut them out completely and ruthlessly.
The people found themselves in a cycle of disobedience, being oppressed by their enemies, then crying out to God for help.
God answered by sending them judges (leaders). He used all kinds of rather unlikely people as leaders – which gives great encouragement to us all. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, these leaders delivered them and transformed their world.
Lord, please raise up good leaders in our city and in our culture who will transform our world and bring honour to the name of Jesus.
Of all the people Jesus could have spent time with, he chose the lowest of the low – the Samaritan woman. In Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, Jesus gives dignity to those who have none.
Verse of the Day
‘A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret’ (Proverbs 11:13).
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), ‘Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World’ (2004) from The Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, www.vatican.va.
John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today, Fourth edition (Zondervan, 2006), p.331.
Eugene Peterson, The Message (NavPress, 2005), p.292.