One of the most prominent questions I get in my messages is how do we change the world? How do we change things from this dark path that all of our lives seem headed towards? It is like we are all deer in the headlights asking “what do we do?” Some offer their own solutions to destroy those in power as they are consumed in anger, I would say their anger is justified but their remedy to the situation is not. Some offer various external factors to change things, vote this or that person in or out of office, reform the system in some way, etc. I seek to give the best answer I can on this, albeit I’m sure it will be lacking to some degree to put the focus on the true epidemic that is plaguing humanity. I ask that the Holy Spirit give me the discernment to express the right words to the best of my ability, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Know Your Enemy
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” He illustrates an important point, that ultimately evil exists in the free will of every man who decides to choose it. If only it were so easy to remove a select few persons committing these atrocities in the world today, but even if you were to somehow do so, evil would just find itself a new host as it is not something purely physical we can reign in and remove without Jesus Christ. This follows what the Bible tells us too, that our primary battle is not against flesh and blood, but a spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:12). “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the flesh. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. While external factors are important to try to change, our focus must turn internal to ourselves, primarily to fight sin itself and our tendency towards it. Paradoxically, to change the world means to change ourselves. The wages of sin is death, which is why we must run from sin as that is what is making the world dark, making evil spread, and even making us feel hopeless about what to do. Sin is more evil than the very devil, for sin made the devil (2). In the Scripture itself we read the effects of sin and human wickedness on the sky, the soil, and it is directly associated with disease itself (1). Deuteronomy chapter nine emphasizes it is not because of the righteousness of man they are being given an inheritance but because of the evil of these nations God is driving them out of their presence. If we allow ourselves and our nation to become sinful and evil will we also not be driven out of the presence of good things?
Sin is an infection that makes everything sick, including us and our world. That is the true pandemic that is destroying us today, not coronavirus. In the Old Testament, much of conquest narratives should be understood in the context as controlling the deadly epidemic of sin. These wicked spirits we fight spiritual warfare against are at work in and through human rebellion to corrupt and destroy the created order. “It is the purification of the world from this evil and corruption that necessitated the Flood, as prophesied at Noah’s birth (Genesis 5:28-29).” (4). The whole world lies in the power of the evil one, but not by right, only through the corruption and sin the free will of humanity chooses. Luckily, Jesus Christ came to destroy all the works of the devil which finds it’s fruition in the Church both individually and communally.
Change Yourself, Change The World
As Christians, we must take up our cross daily and deny ourselves (Luke 9:23), we are in a relentless war against sin. In order to change the world we must change ourselves, we must live in and for Christ. His life is the mirror to our souls, and as we see where we are not doing our best to live like Him we must cleanse our blemishes (sins) with repentance and contrition of heart. We are in the same battle since Genesis with rebellious spirits tempting us to choose the wrong path, to choose sin over God, to choose ourselves over God, and this pattern of spiritual warfare influencing humanity to perform evil has only elongated into today. It takes constant prayer and repentance at every moment to combat this, we will all stumble and fall on this path, but the only difference between a saint and a sinner is the saint kept getting back up.
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov tells us that every resistance to the demands of the passions (sins) weakens them, constant resistance to a passion dethrones it completely so that Christ can take the throne within us, not our selfish desires. On the contrary, fondness for sin grows it and before long man can become enslaved to this sin (5). Hebrews 10:26, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” Jesus Christ is the offering for all sin, voluntary and involuntary, which shows God’s love and grace towards us, but if with full knowledge we still choose to reject the sacrifice of Christ – then where can we possibly turn to obtain forgiveness? If we sin without repenting, without confessing it, without turning to our Lord to create a clean heart in us, how much is this affecting not only ourselves but the environment around us? Are we not giving power to evil to reign?
But we know there is remedy in our Great Physician, Jesus Christ, to heal us, cleanse us, and free us from sin so that we might live in Him and Him in us. So that we might show forth the fruit of the spirit to the world, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit is correlated with faithfulness throughout the Bible, and 1 Samuel 12 gives us the perspective to strive towards, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; only do not turn away from following the Lord. Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart, for you know what great things He has done for you.” I used to think changing the world was some emphatic external act you performed, something you did, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The power to change the world comes from changing yourself, the power to change yourself comes from Jesus Christ dwelling within you.
“When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself. Suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on my town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.” – Unknown Orthodox Christian Monk
1. Deuteronomy Chapter 28, As Quoted by Fr. Stephen De Young in “The Religion of the Apostles.”
2. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk – Journey To Heaven, Counsels on the Particular Duties of Every Christian.
3. The Orthodox Study Bible.
4. Fr. Stephen De Young, The Religion of the Apostles, page 194.
5. St. Ignatius Brianchaninov