I’m going to change the world.
There was a point in time when I threw that sentence around a lot, especially in the social media spheres. And I am not alone. It has become somewhat of an impassioned battle cry. We are the generation of change, charity, awareness, and empathy; this is an incredible thing. We desire to make an impact, to leave behind us a trail of good deeds, or to band together and correct the societal wrongs that devastate humanity. To have a heart of compassion and desire to make God known in the world is who we are to be, the core of our identity. The rally cry from the social media cheerleaders flying the flag of world change is often, “I am going to change the world!! Who will join me?”
Now I’m not one to nitpick, and I detest rant-style writing, but lately I’ve been seeing this bold claim everywhere…and like sandpaper, it’s beginning to grate.
Let me begin by stating that I believe everyone has a purpose and a calling. We were each designed to have an impact not only on the collective whole-wide-world, but also on our individual world and given sphere of influence. The only reason we are who we are, with the talents we each have, living in the city or country that we are respectively in, is because God placed us there and has a plan for our lives. There are people in your lives that God has arranged for you to impact.
No, we are not mindless puppeteered robots who get no choice in how we spend our time. We have a role in this. A big one. We ultimately will decide if we are going to capitalize or squander the opportunities we are presented. We each get to choose if we will look beyond ourselves to see the needs of others. We decide whether to push ourselves when we feel like being lazy, which if you’re anything like me, is often.
That being said, you aren’t going to change anything.
There, I said it. You aren’t going to change the world.
I understand the heart behind a sentiment is often more important than what is actually being said; that pure intentions override semantics. But the reason I believe we should shy away from this statement is because, in all honestly, it feels like a trap.
As we “share” our ambitious plans or recent actions to impact the world for good, how easy is it to become addicted to approval? When others applaud our actions, even the well-intentioned can be caught in an egotistical glory snare. “I’m going to change the world” puts the emphasis on ME–not on God, not on the change, and not on others. It subtly says, “Hey, I did this really big and impacting thing, so I’m pretty awesome. Everyone! HEY EVERYONE!!! Hit “Like” if you think it was awesome. I’m changing the world.”
While it may not be the only motivating factor, wearing the “world changer” badge provides a way to be famous while looking noble. It suggests that, “I think I am big enough to change the planet”.
Now, I’m not saying anyone who has ever claimed that they want to change the world is a narcissistic nightmare. I’m not questioning anyone’s motives for wanting to see good happen. But quietly the ambush is set where my own ego gets fed by any good I might do.
The clue is in the pronoun: “I”, “we”, “me”.
Reality check. I can change my socks, change my lifestyle, change directions, and by all means, I can change my mind…sometimes every two minutes. But can I, in reality, change the world? Is it our job to take back our culture? Well, yes and no.
During Jesus’ time on Earth, many expected Him to do this: to change government, culture, and society. They were looking for a Messiah who would deliver them from the oppressive government of the Romans; one who would create a fair tax structure, end slavery, and develop social programs that would help everyone. (Hey Jesus, when marketed right, this feeding 5,000 with limited resources could stamp out world hunger…And no need for health care when you can heal all diseases.) What Jesus did instead was change the lives of people from the inside, one by one. External changes resulted from what happened on the inside.
Jesus’ primary focus was on changing the individual heart. Not all of Nazareth, Jerusalem, or the Roman Empire. It was the ripple effect. One by one by one.
God calls us to be changed first in order to generate anything meaningful within our world. It is our resolution to passionately follow Him and put Him FIRST that will change the world. And as we reach into the life circumstances of others, He is able to change hearts.
It is not now, nor will it ever be me that changes the world. Only God can do that.
It’s like surfing. Okay, I’ve never been surfing, but I’m acquainted with enough surfers to know that none of them would claim to be in control of a wave–they get to ride along. Oh sure, it takes practice, training, and courage on their part. But the power comes from the wave. That’s how it is when we let God take control of the world changing. He allows us to ride along in the power of His wave, with the Holy Spirit at work. We get to feel the exhilaration, the thrill of being a part of something so much greater than ourselves or our efforts. He is in charge. He does the changing. He has the plan. We get to tag along.
We don’t change people. God is who truly changes hearts. Our job is to love the world.
Love will always bring about change, whether we see it or not. If we are hung up on “changing” the world, we miss the individual, we force our agenda instead of letting people respond as God changes their hearts. It becomes more about our image and how big our impact rather than how the heart is affected.
Let’s face it, being the catalyst for change doesn’t always beget fame and notoriety. In fact, if we are mirroring Jesus and the kind of world change that he exemplified, a lot of people will misunderstand us and see us as, well…ordinary. Causes, campaigns, and action plans are all important, but delving into the lives of others with the love of God is more powerful than a world-wide organization. One by one, change occurs.
In hindsight, I’m not sure what good a public statement like “I’m going to change the world” does. I used to tweet that statement, and honestly I am not sure who it was meant to benefit. To this day, I’m still unsure why I thought I needed to let others know. I suppose it made me feel important. But if I’m being honest, there was a whole lot of lip-service being done without much actual service. I wanted to give others the impression that I was creating change so that I would be adored and encouraged. It was really just about my own image and not at all about doing something to help others. And in reality, it gave me credit instead of God who deserves it.
I am a mess. And as a person who is kind of a mess, I know if I really want to be a world changer (and I do) then each day my prayer has to be, “God change me.”