Be the change you want to see in this world.
It’s a famous quote Gandhi never said. Its message of hope has been plastered on Instagram posts, greeting cards, t-shirts and posters. The phrase has kicked around the globe and done the social media rounds for a while.
A made-up quote incorrectly attributed to a Hindu religious pluralist who transformed a country and influenced the world may be an odd start to an overtly Christian blog post about Christmas, but hear me out.
I think the message of personal transformation may also echo or perhaps twist a Christian one that encourages believers to be a force for good in this world.
Here it goes.
I love and hate this time of year.
It’s Christmas tomorrow. As I open my presents and enjoy the company of people I love, I will also know it will be a difficult time for many.
We live in a country where more than eight people take their own lives every day. Where, on average, one woman each week is beaten and killed by someone who should be loving and caring for her. Where some parents go hungry so their children can eat, and a secure place to call home is unattainable for many.
During the Christmas season, many will overindulge on food and gifts. For others who are left out, God and His goodness can seem far away or only for the #blessed.
It wasn’t like this when He created the world. Night. Day. Sky and sea. The land and all that lived and walked upon it was good. He spoke and it all came into being. Everything was good because He is the source of good.
But mankind went our own way, and what a mess we’ve made of things since.
As I hear of another statistic that shows that the holiday season isn’t a festive time for all, it is easy to wonder where God is in all the mess and question if indeed He is good. Instead of looking at myself and my own sinfulness, I find it easier to look for someone to blame. It’s your fault. Her fault. The Government’s fault. God’s fault.
But I believe God is good and it’s also during this time I am reminded of His goodness.
It is God who reaches across time and space to a fallen and broken world. One night about two thousand years ago, He begins His ultimate rescue mission, His plan to save a world that had turned its back on Him.
This plan comes in the form of a baby born to an ordinary family. A child who will grow up to one day to make Himself a sacrifice so that millions of people can believe His message of hope and repentance, and be saved.
He will love those who hate Him. He will urge people to love their neighbours. He will with His last breath implore God the Father to forgive us, for we know not what we do.
And in a broken and fallen world, God urges Christians to love extravagantly, because we are loved extravagantly. He commands us to live by the Spirit and be transformed; to do good.
I am fortunate to work for an organisation that does good. We assist people who are struggling on the margins. We care for seniors and the elderly. We provide affordable housing for people who have fled violence. But we also glimpse desperation on a larger scale as we see yet another hungry client or another family who have lost their home and are sleeping rough.
There are times when the world seems bleak and the problems immense. But instead of blaming God, perhaps these problems should remind us of what we are called to do.
Imperfect as we are, we are called to do good. To plunge into the messiness of a fallen world and extend kindness to all. To shine the light of God’s love into the darkness, so that others might be drawn to it, find comfort in it and ultimately, be transformed by it.
It is a broken and perishing world. The problems seem too big for us to fix. But it is not without hope. We can, in our small sphere of influence, make a difference.
I met a woman at an aged care home a little while ago. Her name was Elinor. She was leading devotions for a group of frail aged residents one Monday morning.
To people often ignored by the world, she reminded them they still had a purpose.
“Every moment matters,” Elinor told the residents that day. “While we are still around, God has work for us to do.”
While their bodies may be frail, Elinor reminded the group they could still smile, make people feel loved, and they could pray.
“The time we have left matters. It matters to God. Even in our darkest, loneliest moments, we Christians can encourage each other and hope for eternal joy.”
It’s Christmas tomorrow. I want it to be a time filled with laughter and love for everyone. But it won’t be a perfect day for all.
So while we are able, let’s try to be the good we ought to see in this world.