If I hand you a blank sheet of paper and ask you to make a list of what’s wrong with the world, where would you start? Maybe you’d reference recent headlines: assassinations of police officers, systemic racism, the rise of radical Islam. Or maybe you’d start the list with other wrongs, such as generational poverty, sex trafficking, child abuse, abortion, or political corruption.
Once you start writing things down, it’s hard to know when to stop. You could fill a whole library with books that simply list, line by line, what’s wrong with the world.
The Times once sent an inquiry to famous authors, asking them, “What’s wrong with the world?” G. K. Chesterton sent back this reply:
G. K. Chesterton
That’s how any list of what’s wrong with the world should begin. With me. With you. But that’s rarely, if ever, where we start, is it? We don’t reject the idea. None of us claim perfection. It’s just that it wouldn’t even cross our minds to include ourselves on such a list.
That glaring absence of self-reflection and self-indictment only exacerbates the problem. We have 20/20 vision to see the problems of others but when it comes to our own complicity in evil, we’re blind as bats.
Black Lives Matter, Politics, and Other Issues
Take, for instance, Black Lives Matter. Like most Americans, I have opinions about this movement—some positive, some negative. I’m a white, American male. I was raised in the south, in a town and school where racism was alive and well. That kind of culture seeps into your psyche. Even though I’ve tried my whole adult life to eradicate those prejudices, I’m sure they are still there, even in ways of which I’m not conscious.
I admit that I’m part of the problem. By the wrong I’ve done and by the good I’ve left undone, I’ve helped to perpetuate the systemic problem of racism in this country. So before I start pointing a finger elsewhere, let me point all ten fingers back at myself. What’s wrong with this racist world? I am. Unless I acknowledge that fact, I can just shut up about finding fault with others.
This cuts across racial, political, and ideological lines. Why do you see what’s wrong in the world, but do not notice what’s wrong in you? Why do you, as a white person, see what’s wrong with black people, but don’t notice what’s wrong in you? Or why do you, as a black person, see what’s wrong with white people, but don’t notice what’s wrong in you? Why do you, as a Republican, see what’s wrong with Democrats, but don’t see what’s wrong in you? Why do you, as a Democrat, see what’s wrong with Republicans, but don’t see what’s wrong in you?
We could go on and on. But you get the idea. It doesn’t matter if the issue is racism, poverty, violence, corruption, or greed. Unless our fact-finding mission to discover what’s wrong with the world begins in our own hearts, we’ll simply end up as hypocrites. The world has enough armchair judges already; let’s put ourselves on trial. What’s wrong with the world? I am.
Who is Responsible for Making Things Right?
The next question is: Who is responsible for making things right with the world? And you would expect the answer: I am. But you’d be wrong.
The belief that we are responsible for making things right in the world is a large part of what’s wrong with the world to begin with. And the more we think we are the solution, the longer we perpetuate the problem.
Yes, we should strive to be more fair, just, honest, loving, law-abiding citizens. We should try to be better spouses, parents, children, friends, and neighbors. We should reject racism, bigotry, violence, hatred, and the like. In short, we should all work toward virtue. And, at the same time, we should be aware that virtue will not solve the world’s problems.
It might help to recall that the most religious, worship-attending, virtuous people of Jerusalem were those who murdered the Son of God. The cream of the moral crop were high-fiving one another at the crucifixion. They were the problem, but they were not solution. Indeed, they executed the solution.
The Bold Claim of Christianity
The Christian faith makes a bold claim: @@We are the world's problem, but we are not the world's solution.@@ The solution is external to us. It has nothing to do with who we are or what we do. There is only one good, virtuous, selfless source of true and lasting change in the world: the Creator who became part of humanity in Jesus Christ.
He is the solution to the problem that we are. The sole solution. And he is not found in striving for virtue but by participating in his death and resurrection. Who-we-are must first die before who-God-wants-us-to-be can live. God is not concerned with making bad people into good people. He is here to make dead people into living people. He does that by crucifying and resurrecting us into his Son’s living body.
Our union with Christ changes everything. In him there is neither black nor white, Asian nor Hispanic, male nor female. We are all one in Jesus Christ. Not the color of our skin but the name of our Savior becomes how we understand who we are. Jesus becomes our identity. “We have died,” Paul says, “and our life is hidden with Christ in God.” @@Rather than Black Lives Matter, or Blue Lives, or All Lives, it's Christ’s Life that matters.@@ It matters because in him all lives die and come to true life.
The church has the only message that will bring about true change in the world. Because it’s not a message about making racist people unprejudiced, immoral people good, or mean people nice. It’s about uniting all of us, who are the problem, in him who alone is the solution. Our message makes dead people alive in Christ. In him, we are new creatures. In him we are forgiven, filled with the Spirit, adopted into God’s family. We become part of a new humanity, fashioned in the image and likeness of Jesus.
What’s wrong with the world? I am.
What’s the solution to the problem? Christ is.
He is the only true, lasting, life-changing hope for us all.