We Can't Change the World


I thought some reflections on Andy Crouch’s session at Q would be a good way to begin the week. Many of us look for ways to start the week in a strong way and take on the world in a big way. Andy’s core message was different from the other Q presenters and he was convinced that his message contained the best possible news – we are not the ones to change the world because God has already changed the world. The Gospel message is so much better and more powerful than the mindset that if we work hard enough, smart enough or creatively enough, we can change the world. Culture is being already transformed by the power of God and the world truly is different because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

How does God change the world? Crouch quickly drew our thoughts to the two most important events in history: the Exodus and the resurrection of Jesus. He reminded us that these two events are the hinge pins of the Old and New Testament. As such they engage our sense of time – they are indeed timeless in their importance. God is a God who liberates and sets people free. It is interesting to note that these two events challenge our understanding of place – both took place on the edges of society: among an enslaved people in Egypt and a criminal who was executed outside the city gates. Without the Exodus there would be no People of God, no law; without the resurrection, no good news, no Church. God is in the business of rescuing the powerless.

The message is disorientating because we have what Crouch calls a “survivor bias.” We reward the strong, the successful, the significant. The stories we tell and pay attention to are typically stories of wildly successful people, women and men who beat the odds and change their world, quite often by their sharp intellect, amazing creativity, or sheer power and might. However, there is a lot of carnage along the way of success. What about the people who have burned out, given up, and quit have walked away from the conversation? What about their voice? What about their effort? In other words, what is God doing to change the world universally?

I loved this line from Crouch: “the goodness of the poor is that they are not as poor as they or we think they are.” It reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4: 7, “ but we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not us.”

Here was a modern day example that Crouch used to illustrate how God’s power to change the world was demonstrated in time and place. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost 27 years on Robben Island. This place, a God forsaken location by all human standards, became known as Mandela’s University. The weakness of Mandela and that little island showed God’s strength. The little acts done over time in the relative obscurity of Robben Island, powered by God’s plan, God’s time, God’s place, and God’s power, changed the course of South Africa and indeed the world.

Who is transforming culture? Those unknowns on Robben Islands all around, those who understand the transcendence of God’s work through the Exodus and the Resurrection.

Quite often I use the phrase “agents of change.” That phrase “survivor bias” written all over it. Crouch suggested that God is not looking for agents of change but instead uses “patients of change” in God’s world today. Patients are men and women who although they suffer, they as well are people who have experienced the healing power of God.

We can’t change the world. But the good news is in Christ the world is already changed. God invites us to partner with God as a “patient of change” – to reveal the work of Christ, illustrate it, announce it, and declare it.

“Christ was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.” (Colossians 1:180-20, The Message)

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