This is an idea for a brief sermon I hope to deliver to an actual audience someday – hopefully at Harvard.
Two years ago, most of our campus was swept away by the election of President Barack Obama. The night he won, it sounded like everyone in Cambridge was outside my room shouting, dancing, celebrating, and going crazy. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement surrounding Obama’s election.
Barack Obama’s presidency may turn out to be good for America. But I don’t believe that Barack Obama is the person who will ultimately bring change. I don’t think Sarah Palin is, either – or, for that matter, Adam Smith or Karl Marx or anyone else. Instead, it is my firm belief that true change – change we can believe in – is found only in the person of Jesus Christ.
Things have certainly changed a lot in the past few hundred years. We’ve gone from horses to cars, from telegrams to the Internet, from Beethoven to rock and roll… Brave men and women have fought and sometimes died to bring us democracy, freedom, and equality that would have been pipe dreams just centuries ago. In many ways, things have changed completely.
In other ways, however, things really haven’t changed at all. We know happy people and sad people, poor people and rich people, greedy people and generous people, humble people and prideful people. Art has changed, technology has changed, culture has changed, politics has changed – but people haven’t changed. The basic facts about human nature are just as true today as they were thousands of years ago, which is why an ancient work of literature like the Iliad or the Bible can resonate with us thousands of years later. Truly it was said that there is nothing new under the sun.
It seems, then, that we have learned how to change everything except ourselves. The problem is that changing ourselves is all that matters; changing laws and countries doesn’t mean anything if you don’t change people. As Solzhenitsyn said, the battle-line dividing good and evil is drawn, not through states or through classes, but between every human heart – and through all human hearts. The problem isn’t “the system” or “the man,” but our hearts.
I believe that Jesus changes hearts. I don’t believe that because the Bible tells me so or because my mommy told me so; I believe it because I have seen it with my own two eyes. I know Christians on the verge of suicide who now lead hopeful and purposeful lives. I know Christians who were once drug dealers and gang members who are now gentle, kindhearted men, Christians whose marriages and families have been healed. I know Christians who were once slaves to drugs, or porn, or women, or selfishness, who have now been set free.
Are there non-Christians who have changed in similar ways? Of course. Are Christians perfect? Of course not. And yet I cannot deny my impression that most (if not all) the people I have known who were seriously committed to changing themselves have been Christians. Lots of people want to be good; very few people want to be better, to own up to and confront the darkness that invariably exists within them. I cannot deny my impression that there is something about the community of Christians quite unlike anything else I have ever seen. I hear a lot of talk about self-improvement and making the world a better place, but the bulk of the change I have witnessed has taken place among unassuming Christian men and women who simply cheat less, gossip less, covet less, lie less, and hate less than they otherwise would.
My point isn’t that I’m better than you or that Jesus is the only way. If you’re like most people, you’ve heard plenty of that before, and you’re probably sick of it. My point, rather, is this: If you are serious about changing the world – if you want to make the world a better place – if you want to make yourself a better person – consider Christianity. Read the Bible, talk to a friend, do anything but ignore it.
It has already changed the world – it might just change your life.