What would the world be like if everyone listened to and followed the words of Jesus Christ? What might that look like? How would our world be different than what it is like today? This is a difficult question to answer. In fact, it is probably an impossible scenario. But for the evangelist, is is his or her greatest hope, that all the world would follow Christ.
I would like to think that the world would be better if all followed Christ. But many tend to think that the world would be worse off. They reflect upon the experience of state-run religion, and conclude that Christ and His Church are a negative part of the human experience. There was a time when whole nations were Catholic, or Protestant. Many nations around the world currently profess a belief in Islam. While it is hard for Americans to understand, some nations enforce membership in a religion. You will still find many people who would profess this to be the only solution to the problem of unbelief in our world. But many more will use state-run religion as proof of the evils of religion. But is this really what it means to embrace Christ -a forced religion?
Just because a state enforces religion doesn’t mean that its people have embraced Jesus Christ’s Gospel. Likewise, an anti-religious institution mindset (common in our time) doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be more faithful to the truth either (as some non-denominational Christians and secularists suggest). What is the key to encountering Christ? It is to welcome Him into your heart with honesty. We are all capable of inviting the transformative power of the Living God into our hearts, minds, and bodies. When we admit this as a possibility, and then choose it, we open up the door for renewal. The affairs of the state, the practice of religious obligations, and the matters of business and family can open up to renewal through Christ. But first, we must change. The external world will only change when we change our own hearts. Have we ever tried this?
The resistance of people to give their hearts to Christ is the key roadblock to peace and justice in our world. People who have been forced to accept Christ, and people who merely attack institutions, have yet to really give themselves over to Christ. In both scenarios, the inside life is ignored. Jesus is kept on the outside. Many people are interested in Jesus Christ, so long as He stays on the outside. Well, too bad, because Jesus Christ wants our hearts. He wants us to freely choose Him, so that He can renew us.
Jesus will leave us better than He found us. We should not be afraid to reach out and embrace Jesus, because He improves us. Even this is an understatement, because this “improvement” is nothing less than the transformation from dying to rising. When we are in motion in the natural world, we are moving towards death. When Christ enters into us, our dying is transformed into rising. Those who try each day to let Jesus in know this is true. But it is very hard to take the first step in opening up to Christ. It seems easier to live without Him. The world is set up to help us to live without Him. We are taught that we can live without the rising to a new life in Christ.
Maybe we will never know what a world converted to Christ would look like. In a world of freedom, it is hard to convince people to make this choice above all others. Forcing people to believe, or attacking institutions, is a poor substitute for real faith. Maybe only when Christ comes again will we know what a converted world will look like. But does that mean we should stop evangelizing? Of course not! For it is the only way to peace and justice in this world. Maybe the more we share our own renewal to our neighbors, the more likely they will drop their fear of freedom, of institutions, and ultimately of Christ. We can set people free to be in the world, and not of the world. This seems to me to be a goal we can achieve – that of setting captives free. We cannot get rid of the prisons of this world until we convince people that they can get free through Christ. It’s a task worthy of our lives.