Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why I Don’t Believe in Changing the World.

This morning as I was scrolling through my daily intake of social media I noticed that the words “world changer” appeared a surprising number of times. 

In most cases, writers used the phrase “world changer” to reference a person’s aspirations to cause an end to some kind of injustice in the world. In most instances the phrase was self-referencing, alluding to the writer’s own aspirations to make an impact on injustice. It seems that only the words “world changer” could possibly suit the magnitude of such beneficent actions.

On the surface it seems that we should all aspire to be world changers. Furthermore, it seems that the general consensus is that such actions worthy of world changing status should be within the easy reach of the common man.

Upon further reflection, it appears that there are several difficulties with world changing aspirations. 

First, the phrase “world changer” implies that the world can indeed be changed either through our efforts or the collective efforts of good-willed people like us. 

We could all probably agree that the world needs to change. For the purposes of conversation let’s say that the “world” is the totality of all humanity on earth, all of our collective actions and the consequences of those actions. Anyone who has lived for any significant amount of time knows that human existence is full of tragedy, injustice, pain and suffering. Who wouldn’t want to see the end of such a reality?

But it is one thing to acknowledge the existence of such a world. It is quite another to think for a moment that we can do anything about it. The idea that enough of us doing enough good can either expel injustice and evil from the world for good or cancel the ill-effects of such injustice, is completely ludicrous. Anyone who thinks for a moment that their actions either individual or collective, pack sufficient power to right the wrongs of the world has either seriously underestimated the pervasive root of evil or has seriously overestimated their own influence.

This type of attitude is particularly prevalent in the western mindset of the millennial generation who seem to have been led to believe by well meaning parents and teachers that they have a great deal to offer to “the world” despite their woeful lack of experience and knowledge. Such a mindset is destructive, because at best, such aspirations will inevitably lead to disillusionment as well meaning recent graduates come into contact with the reality of a world so completely evil that they cannot even begin to understand the causes of its’ problems much less fix them. 

Second, the concept of living as a “world changer” implies that the good a person does ought to be recognizable at a global scale or even recognized at all. Again, on the surface this seems so right. After all bigger is better right? 

The trouble with this line of thinking is that it is much easier to address the evil and injustice of “the world” and totally ignore our own evil desires and personally destructive choices. It is entirely possible for an unkind, unloving person to serve in a position of power where they give their life to end some kind of injustice, all the while sowing seeds of hatred in the hearts of their own children and those closest to them. While this “world changer” fights for a better world “out there” the world that they are in the best position to influence becomes a place where no one actually wants to live.

The designation “world” removes the closeness of the trouble with the human condition. The person identifying as a “world changer” is tempted to see the “world” as a terrible place that needs to change, but their own marriage, family, company, and neighborhood are too small to deserve their attention. 

Don’t get me wrong. The world is full of terrible wrongs that must be righted. And without question, we ought to be involved in doing good. But I find the term “world changer” to be an unhelpful designation for mere mortals like me. The narrative that informs my life tells the story of a God who so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son to live a life that I could not live and to die a death I could not die to pay a price for my rebellion that I could not pay. In this story, the world does indeed change. But it doesn’t change through the efforts of men. It changes when the God who created it all, comes and rules it again. Until then let us not get caught up in changing the world. Instead let’s just focus on recklessly loving people as God first loved us. 


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A Real Letter


Letter Photo


Yesterday I came home and there was a real paper letter waiting for me on the kitchen counter. My name and address was handwritten with a sharpie marker next to three big stamps from China.

I’ll admit that it felt something like Christmas morning when I was eight.

The curiosity about its’ origins and what news it might contain raced through my mind as I said to my wife, “Hey a letter for me!”. She smiled and said, “Open it silly.”.  I ripped open the end with my bare hands (we don’t get enough mail to own a real letter opener) like a bear tearing into a can of tuna.

I pulled out a single white page covered in neat straight rows of handwritten letters. My heart felt a little lighter as my eyes scanned the words. It was a letter from my friend Aaron. He was writing for no particular reason at all. He just wanted to say hello “in person”.

As I re-read my friend’s letter again this morning, I realized how much I like getting mail. I also realized how significantly different a real letter is from an email or Facebook message.

There is something about a real, handwritten letter that communicates far more than the words themselves convey. Maybe it’s the realization that someone took the time to think of me; had the courage to write with an actual pen whose words cannot be deleted; knew my address; and made the effort to hand carry the message to a post box.

Whatever it is, I really like getting a real letter in the mail. I felt joy and connection to a person thousands of miles away. In any case, my friend’s letter has inspired me.

I think I’ll go write a letter.

The Significance of Story

We become characters in the stories we tell ourselves. This is the power of narrative.

The most powerful story ever told, the one that tells us who we really are, who God really is and where everything in the world is going, is the story of Jesus. We call this story the Gospel.


Unfortunately most of us choose to give less worthy stories greater authority in our lives. Why?

When I think about this question for myself I conclude that essentially I am an unintentional advocate for unworthy stories. I gravitate towards those narratives that are the easiest to hear and resonate with the most shallow aspect of my desires.

We know that we are made for something significant. That’s the energy behind our quest. We desperately want to know how to become “somebody” in the world. We thirst to know how to find happiness and peace.

We also watch a lot of television. The stories that stream into our consciousness tell all kinds of things about success and happiness and peace. These stories tell us that if we are smarter, have more money and have more power then we can buy things that make us comfortable, that people will respect us, and we will have the kind of life that we always dreamed of.

When we allow ourselves to be exposed to these kinds of narratives we are drawn in because in some way we imagine ourselves in the story. We identify with a particular character with a particular set of difficulties, dreams or personality.

Here’s the hard truth.

These characters are not real people and the stories they tell are incomplete. These popular narratives are sometimes even dangerous because they lay out a false version of reality where we (or the character that represents us) are the center of a small universe. In this universe we get what we want, we are comfortable and powerful and all of our problems get worked out in 60 minutes or less.

The story that informs every other story, the story of Jesus, points us to a different way. Jesus says that the only way you can find meaning is to recognize that you are not the center of the universe. He says things like, if you want to be first you have to be last. He says that true happiness comes from recognizing your own weakness. He says that if you pursue him with all of your heart, with every ounce of your energy then the rest of your story will line up the way that it is supposed to.

Here’s the amazing truth.

You are valuable. God made you with his own hands. He rescued you by sending His own Son to die in your place. This is the story that tells you who you are. This is the story that you should tell yourself when you get up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. May we become the characters in God’s story that He designed us to be.

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