The teenager with their hand in the air asked me a most profound question: ‘What good has Christianity done for the world?’ It was a genuine enquiry and asked without aggression, but it was going to be a tricky one to answer. We were in one of the local high schools. I had been invited to take part in a debate with a representative of secular humanism, an atheist in other words. We were at that stage where questions were invited from the audience and there certainly didn’t seem to be any shortage of interest. These young people had a huge enthusiasm for spiritual questions, even if they were generally agnostic in their opinion.
I pondered my response. Almost any answer I might give could validly be challenged by those on the opposing side of the debate. I believe unreservedly that Christianity is the good news of peace and yet, sadly, wars have been fought in its name. I also believe it is good news for the poor, and yet so often the Church has been the preserver of a status quo that favours the rich. So what could I say that wouldn’t be shot down in flames?
I began ‘I don’t know about the world, but I believe that my life is transformed for the good for being a Christian.’ I make no pretence to piety, but at those moments when I am most likely to act selfishly or harshly, when I place my own desires and interests above those around me, I find myself confronted internally by the disapproval of a God who commands me to love my neighbour, turn the other cheek and forgive my enemy. The result is that in some very small way I believe the world is a better place because of the influence of Christianity in that small corner which is Jeff Cuttell.
The truth is that there is no cure for world poverty without addressing individual greed, nor is there any solution to global warming without changing the problem of selfish consumption. Between the wars, The Times asked its readers what was wrong with the world. G. K. Chesterton is famously said to have written a letter simply saying ‘Dear Sir, I am.’
All attempts to transform the world have to begin with the
transformation of the individual. The battleground of world history is won in
the consciences of men and women. Obedience to a Christian conscience will be an
exceptionally good guide. Change the world by all means, but never believe you
can achieve that end without changing yourself. Perhaps you might consider this
when you make your New Year’s resolutions?
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