So You Want to Change the World?
I was flipping through the program from my Ph.D. commencement about two weeks post-ceremony. I turned to the back of the program, the back cover. It was plain, all one color. But it said something so profound. Three words. Three words that I believe were not only the desire of my school but at the core, the desire of each of us. Those three words were: Change the world.
As I read those words, I immediately became overwhelmed by the weight of what they meant. Now, entering the world with our new degrees, our new titles, we have a new mission. A mission to change the world. As a graduate, so many people ask, “What’s next?” For many of us, the answer is a new job, maybe more education, or taking our skills and knowledge out into the world. However, for me, I struggle to answer that question because I feel like I am called to much more than a new job or career. I struggle with the notion of just moving on to the next thing. I have this deep sense of wanting to do more, more than what is assumed or expected.
Now, fast forward to the present day. I sit here a full year later, still contemplating what it truly means to change the world.
A pandemic hits, and the world virtually shut down in a matter of 24hrs. Century long injustices came to a head in a single moment, sparking movements sweeping the nation. Our world is in a place that is longing for change. We want to stand up against injustices, speak out for the marginalized, help those who are under resourced, and truly make a difference. But when we look at everything in the world that needs changing, the task seems so daunting.
I was watching a recent episode of Woodside’s The Link, where Pastor Chris Brooks sat down with two Gen Z leaders to discuss this very topic. One of the guests, Micah, shared a story about rallying 90 of his friends through social media to pray over and show the love of Christ to those who were marching in Detroit last month. Micah and his friend’s posture of changing the world started by showing up for their community steaming from their love of Christ and the call He has placed on their life. What a powerful example.
It is easy to step back because something might seem “too big” to tackle on your own. You may not feel like the right person for the job. I so often feel this way. But, I love the example of Micah, just taking a small step to make an impact at that moment, right where he was.
The more I think about this quote, “Change the world,” and hearing stories like Micah’s, the more I realize changing the world might not be as hard as it looks. The reality is you, and I cannot change the world entirely on our own. But we can change the world around us. Hear me out.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9,
To the Jews, I became as a Jew, to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some.
You work in an office, have a family, live in a community, send your kids to a school [well maybe not this fall, but you get the gist] and are surrounded by people every day. These places are where we start. Changing the world doesn’t seem so daunting when you approach from where you are currently. Changing the world begins with changing the world we interact with every day. We do not need to define success as making a name for ourselves or solving all the world’s problems from the start. It can be identified and should be as impacting the greater whole.
We must remember real change ultimately occurs through individuals understanding and accepting the forgiveness and hope that is found only in Jesus. Yes, we need to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and fight against injustice (Proverbs 31:8–9). However, real, lasting change can only happen by pointing people to Jesus. That is how we begin to change the world — one person at a time.
Why? Because Jesus’ life was the ultimate example of instilling change in the hearts of people. He showed grace and compassion in every opportunity He got. He never wasted a moment. May we strive to be people who, like Paul says, become all the things to all people so that we may save some. May we be like Micah and seize moments to uplift those in our community and always pointing people back to Jesus, where real life-change happens.