On Thinking Small and Changing the World

Pawn on chessboard

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

The world is not what it should be. In just the past few days, we have been inundated with news about jihadist murder in France, racial tensions in America, an attempted coup in Turkey, and starving millions in Venezuela. I think we would all agree that Someone Should Do Something About That, and we probably feel guilty that we aren’t stepping up to be the Someone who does the Something.

But perhaps we are not quite on the mark about the Something we ought to be doing. Several unrelated social trends have worked together to give our era an unbalanced and counterproductive understanding of how renewal comes and what it takes to make the world a better place.

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Remembering that sometimes things change

A devout Jew in the first century BC would have gone to the synagogue every Sabbath to hear teaching and readings from the Scriptures. Each week, men from the community would rise to read from the books of the Law and from the prophets who foretold a Messiah, scribes and respected elders would explain the meaning of these Scriptures to the people, and then they would all go home as another week cycled on past, as the people and the weeks had done for generation after generation. One imagines a middle-aged man and his family, from Capernaum, say; godly, careful to observe the Sabbath, there every week to listen as the old scrolls are opened and the thinning grey beards move over them in patient explanation. He might sit on the same bench where his father had sat, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, as they listened to the same words, promises so old they predated the worn stone walls around them. So they waited. And then, one Sabbath, someone from the audience rose to speak in the usual way, and the most unexpected thing happened: what they had been expecting. “They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

One of the world’s greatest lies is that nothing ever really changes. Sure, Eve, eat that fruit–God may not be happy, but really, what’s the worst that could happen?

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