Monday, April 15, 2013

Change the world

Change the world



"If Jesus died to change the world, he failed."

That is what the gentleman said when he met retired Bishop NT Wright. Although we don't like to admit it, we can all understand what the man was saying, can't we? Jesus has had 2000 years to change the world.

·        60% of Americans are not in church on any given Sunday[1]

·        Two out of 5 people describe Christians as being hypocritical, judgmental, and phony. [2]

·        Fewer of our children are following in our spiritual footsteps,

·        The hungry still have growling stomachs

·        The lonely still have broken hearts

·        We still have addiction and homelessness.

·        We can't seem to provide adequate treatment for mental illness.

·        And we are still surrounded with hate, violence, and crime.

 Need I continue? I think the gentleman has a fair question… If Jesus came to change the world, it would appear that he has failed.

Bishop Wright doesn't tell us how he responded in the moment, but he writes later, "if there is an answer to this challenge it will not come in words, but in flesh and blood." The world will not be changed by what I say today, what we sing this morning, what you say this week. The world will only be changed by what Bishop Wright calls "words with skin on them, Words that hug you, and play with you, and love you, and rebuke you, and build houses with you, and teach your children in school"[3]

Do you want the unvarnished version of that?... Here you go…Jesus hasn't failed. We have. (Sorry, but that's the way I see it.)

·        If the world has not changed, it is because we have not carried out his mission to which we have been called.

·         If the world is going to change, it has to start with us: We have to love someone. We have to touch someone. We have to feed someone. We have to risk for someone. We have to challenge the status quo. We have to speak up for the weak. We have to build a house for the homeless. We have to adopt that orphan. We have to invite a friend.

Please understand that I am not discounting the power of God to transform, but God saves each of us and then, just like the disciples, sends us out to change the world. Then Jesus holds us accountable for whether we behave like world changers. "Then He will answer them, "Whatever you did not do for the least of these you did not do for me…Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for Me." [4]


Friends Jesus hasn't failed, we have. We have failed to be the troublemakers Jesus needs us to be. That's right. What Jesus needs is some troublemakers. What we need in this church are some troublemakers! What we need in this world is a bunch of troublemakers to stir up the status quo, to afflict the comfortable, and to point us toward the world-changes that will bring us closer to the kingdom of God.

- Troublemakers? You ask. - Yes, Troublemakers I say!

- That's what the enemies of the early church called the Christians at Thessalonica.

- They accused them of "turn(ing) the world upside down" [5]or, "cause(ing) trouble all over the world. They were world changers." They were troublemakers because, instead of being content with the status quo, they sought to turn everything upside down and change the world for Jesus. They were troublemakers. They were world changers. They were just doing as Jesus instructed.

They were in good company because Jesus was also considered a troublemaker. He was crucified not so much for blaspheme, or jealousy, but because the leaders of the Jews considered him a troublemaker. They tried to warn him, but he insisted on exciting the people, saying controversial things, healing on the Sabbath, and forgiving sins. He was a troublemaker.

This church and this community needs troublemakers like that.

Therefore, in these coming weeks I am going to put out a call for all of you to be troublemakers and world changers for Jesus.


So where do we start?

I kind of feel like I did when we arrived in Haiti. After a 4 ½-hour drive past tent cities, open sewers, burning garbage, and abject poverty. I wondered how we could possibly make any difference at all. I think the solution is the same for us today as it was in Haiti. I finally said, "We can make a difference to this ONE family today. We can make this hour better for this ONE orphan." We start where we are and we make a difference for today and be thankful for the difference we made.

Therefore, we will start by making trouble in our own back yard; in our own church; in our own neighborhoods; and in our own families. We will start today and we will be thankful for even the smallest opportunity to make any kind of change no matter how insignificant. We will be thankful for any opportunity to be world changers and kingdom bringers.


We spent the last 7 weeks seeking to change the world in our hearts and minds. By changing our habits and behaviors, we began to change the world. Do you sense the change? It is not a change I can see from up here. You will only see it in your heart. You probably did not solve all of your problems, break all of your habits, and reach perfection during lent. I know I did not, but I know I made some progress and I hope you did too. We will always need to continue our heart-work and habit-work in order to come continually closer to being the people Jesus wants us to be.

We do not, however, want to get stuck there. That would be like cleaning only one room of your house and letting the others decay into some sort of black hole.

We're not going to do that. It is time for us to get out of our own hearts and heads. It is time for us to get out of that one room on which we have been working… but not too far. We are going to start close to home and close to our hearts. This week I want us be world changers in our own circle of relationships; our family, our friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances.

·        We cannot solve everyone's problems, but we can reconcile with one family member this week. That changes the world for both of us.

·        We cannot be friends with everyone, but we can make one friendship stronger this week. That one simple act changes the world for both of us.

·        We cannot be responsible for the hurtful things people do, but we can offer forgiveness to one person this week. That will change their world.

·        We cannot be all things to all people, but we can help one neighbor today. That will begin to change their world

Do you understand what I am asking you to do?


We are going to change the world one relationship at a time, but we do not do it on our own. We have at our disposal the most powerful world-changing force known to God. Listen…

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.[6]

I have seen this passage hanging on the walls of many of your homes, and that's great, unless it just becomes part of the wallpaper. You know, it's there, but you don't really notice it. Let me help you to see how world changing it can be.


First, this passage calls us to real love.

Most of what passes for love in our world is one of two kinds of counterfeit love.

·        There is cheap and easy love, which is the warm fuzzy emotion that makes hooking up, cohabitation and easy divorce possible.

·        Or, on the other hand, it is we are bombarded with images of wild, intimate love. TV, movies, commercials, facebook, and your email spam folder are screaming it into your life.

The problem is that both of those "LOVES" are completely selfish. They are all about me: me being loved, me being accepted, me being satisfied. At best, they are a business transaction. As long as both parties profit from the relationship it is good. When one party no longer "profits" it is over. 

Real love, however, is radically focused on the other person. Paul writes, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. In short, it isn't about you!!

Love is always putting the other person first. How much would it change your relationships if you were to just love others… without concern for what you get out of it, without concern for fairness, without concern for yourself? Not with envy, or boastfulness, or arrogance, or rudeness- not at all for yourself? How world-changing would it be if you were to take one of your hardest relationships and just pour yourself out for that person? Not regarding what you can get out of it, but only what you can put into it.

One proviso- This does not apply to abusive relationships. Those relationships are sick and need other kinds of intervention. 

I can already hear someone saying … Pastor, So and so, should hear this. They are so stuck on themselves. If only they could love me the way I deserve to be loved….wrong! It isn't about you. You can't control them… when you are together; you treat them as though they are the most important person in the world because in the eyes of love they are.

·        There is no "so that they will."

·        There is no "then they will."

·        There is no "I wish they would." That turns it all back to being about you.

You want to really make some trouble this week, choose one person, and love them without qualification or reservation.

·        People will wonder what you are up to, but that's good. If they notice, you are probably doing something right. If they get suspicious, you are probably doing it right. They aren't used to seeing real love in action. However, let them wonder, and then stand back, because their world is about to change. 

·        Someone may try to take advantage of you. That's OK, that's probably because they have never really been loved and they don't know how to respond.  It's OK to draw your boundary or your limit so they don't take advantage of you.  But then go right back to loving them the very best you can.

·        Then keep doing it because Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. If you are like me, you might be afraid to ask what that means. You are only afraid, however, because you already know. It means love never ends. Paul says, Love never ends. prophecies, tongues, knowledge and every other gift will end . NOT LOVE! now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


A junior high youth group prepared a Palm Sunday passion play for their church.

The young man who portrayed Jesus had a lot of trouble with his lines.  He seemed to prefer to adlib his lines rather than memorize them. When He was playing the scene in the garden of Gethsemane in which Jesus leaves the disciples while he goes ahead to pray and then returns to find the sleeping twice he gave the disciples a stern look and said,  "Asleep again! Boy, they just don't make disciples like they used to!"

After the resurrection, after the shock and fear were passed, all of the disciples picked up where Jesus left off and went out to change the world.  They were accused of being trouble makers.  They took risks. They endured hardship.  But they changed the world.

The question is - "Do they still make disciples like that?"

I believe they do--and I believe that you can be one of them.


You can be a world-changer, a trouble-maker!...not because you are so smart, or because you know all the right things to say--but because God has empowered you to be a mighty force of love in His Kingdom, in this world, in our community, in this church and in every one of your relationship.

Go and make some trouble this week.



[1]  (National Opinion Research Center: 38%; Institute for Social Research's World Values: 44%; Barna: 41%; National Election Studies: 40%; Gallup: 41%.)

[2] Unchristian, David Kinnman and Gabe Lyons, Baker books 2009

[3] The Crown and the Fire,  NT Wright Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (September 30, 1997)

[4] Matthew 25:45 International Standard Version (©2012) 

[5] Acts 17:6

[6] 1 corinthians 13:4-7 (NRSV)


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