Changing Our World with Faith

Jay Smith, YTI President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

May-June 2018 Inscribed

Montage of woman holding protest sign, silhouetted young people, and man with megaphone

We live in a world where the “protest movement” has become the cultural means of challenging real and perceived injustices in our democracy. Movements such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Me Too,” and “Never Again,” have formed in response to racism, sexism/sexual assault, and school safety/school shootings. These movements are high profile and have massive initial impact, but for the most part do not have staying power. What is the conclusion? Cultural movements, as well intended as they are, come and go.

Why is there no staying power? The answer is relatively simple. When movements lack the consistent staying power of a mutually shared and well-grounded faith, they will always lose energy and momentum over time. The world will hear their voices but not listen; it will feign interest but quickly move on to the next interesting and fleeting topic. Movements founded without a dynamic well-grounded faith cannot last in an ever-changing world.

Either the world changes you, or you change the world. It is that simple.

How a Shepherd Boy Changed His World

The world, as defined by the Bible, is the whirlwind of culture surrounding us, telling us what to do, what to buy, and how to live. It is superintended by forces beyond our control, and indeed, cannot be controlled by you or me.

However, the world can be changed.

In 1 Samuel 17 we find the story of David, the youngest son of Jesse, an owner of flocks of sheep near Bethlehem in Judah. As his older brothers were called to the battle between Israel and Philistia, David stayed home and cared for the sheep. David faithfully carried out the task of protecting his father’s flock against the lions and other wild animals of the Judean wilderness. He was a boy of practiced skill and tremendous faith.

One day, Jesse sent David to the Valley of Elah, where Israel’s army was entrenched against the Philistines, in order to bring food to his brothers and their superiors. When David arrived, he found out that there was a Philistine champion named Goliath who was taunting the Israelites twice a day, causing fear throughout King Saul’s army.

This errand should have been an easy task for David, but his conviction would not allow him to remain silent about Goliath or Goliath’s effect upon the army. David went on to tell Saul that he would face Goliath and that the strength of the Lord would see him through. Indeed, to the derision of his brothers and the amazement of Israel’s army, David faced and defeated Goliath in the name of the Lord.

David changed his world. He did it through a passionate faith and a willingness to listen carefully, to speak wisely, and to act justly, courageously, and thankfully.

Listening, Then Speaking

We too can change our world.

If our view of the world is informed by a vibrant faith in the living God, then the foundation of our ability to change the world has been laid. Faith is the key to changing this world. Without faith our world will not only not be changed, but it will continue on its current self-destructive course.

So how can we change the world? It’s much simpler than we think. Let’s go back to David. We must listen carefully, speak wisely, then act justly, courageously and thankfully. Since we were born, we have spent time learning to talk. The reality is we talk too much and listen too little. Before we talk, we must learn to listen again. We must learn to listen carefully to others. We must listen to their hurts, their concerns, their joys, and their victories.

Only after listening carefully can we speak wisely to others. We tend to talk quickly and loudly without listening. Why is that? It is because we want to be heard by others. Speaking and talking would seem to be synonymous; but they are not. Talking is saying words without listening. Speaking is listening with intent, followed by articulating words of wisdom—words that make a difference. Words of wisdom, healing, and blessing.

Just, Courageous Action … with Thankfulness

The world will be turned by words, but it will be changed by just action. Our action must be just for the sake and betterment of others, yet it must also be courageous. Our world does not tolerate fools or prophets. As we act justly for the sake of others, we will be called foolish by our world. Yet the courageous witness of truth will change the world. A painful note though: although just and courageous action is beautiful and world changing, it will often find derision and its own pain. But that derision and pain is fleeting in the light of the love, truth, and hope.

No world changing act is complete without thankfulness. Genuine thankfulness by itself is a healing salve. To thank God or to thank others—for the smallest of kindnesses—can change minds and hearts. It is the power of faith.

Our nation and our world are filled with protesters—self-proclaimed “world changers.” They seek justice, but they have neither truth nor love. After a season, their protest wears thin, their resolve weakens, and they succumb to the siren call of their world. Their protest is not backed by faith, and they have failed to listen carefully and speak wisely. The world remains unchanged. You can, however, change the world. Faith is the victory.

Dr. Jay SmithDr. Jay T. Smith has taught at Howard Payne University, Baylor University, and the United States Naval Academy. He is the co-author with Stanley Grenz of The Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (IVP 2003) and Created for Community Revised Edition (Baker Academic 2015). Jay loves to hike, compose music, and write about Jesus. He roots for the Baylor Bears and Howard Payne Yellowjackets.

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