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It’s Not Your Job to Change the World

Being on mission has little to do with being right but everything to do with humility.

John VandenOever October 19, 2022

I used to have it all figured out. If you asked me how to raise children, how to vote, how to interpret the Bible, how to resolve political and cultural turmoil—I’d have good, reasoned advice. The trouble is, believers in Jesus Christ were never meant to be Lucy Van Pelt, the bossy character from the Peanuts comic strip, settled behind our “Psychiatric Help” booth, waiting to solve society’s ills. Rather, we’re to be caught doing good. And if we suffer for it, to give a reason for our hope (1 Pet. 3:15).

Illustration by Adam Cruft

This hope will not seem logical to non-believers, nor will it look like good advice, because our faith is centered on unseen things. “Hope that is seen is not hope,” writes Paul. “Who hopes for what he already sees?” (Rom. 8:24). But faith embraces a powerful Savior who became weak to secure our freedom. If we seem strange to the world, and if our perspectives and behavior look foreign, we shouldn’t be surprised. The world will not beat a path to our door in search of insight; and in fact, if they do hear it, they might decide to hate us.

So I’m reforming my ways. I’m folding up my card table and tearing to pieces my sign that reads, “The doctor is in.” Though I’ll never stop pursuing a biblical perspective on all of life’s challenges and society’s ills, my purpose in God is not to change others’ opinions, but to remain ready to share Christ’s hope. Scripture reminds us, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom. 10:15). 

As I’ve wrestled within myself over the turmoil in our culture, all of it screaming for answers, I rediscovered a wonderful charge from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thess. 4:11-12 NIV).

Though I’ll never stop pursuing a biblical perspective on all of life’s challenges and society’s ills, my purpose in God is not to change others’ opinions, but to remain ready to share Christ’s hope. 

This is the apostle’s advice to a church that was probably as anxious as we are about life and our place in the world. Thessalonica was a major metropolitan area, a trade and communications hub, and a pluralistic culture, where countless expressions of belief and practice ran together. Though it’s tempting to answer back, Paul called his contemporaries to a quiet life.

For the 21st-century Christian, this quietness calls us to be less tuned in to the noise of today; more reflective. It’s takes practice to train our hearts toward God’s kingdom. In fact, when I’m most connected with the world’s noisy viewpoints, I feel the least equipped to deal with real needs in my life and community.

When Paul says we should mind our business, what that suggests is that we keep our vision focused on people who are near, making for firmer friendships, where grace transcends opinions. Paul also urges faithfulness, diligence, and productivity, because these habits narrow our focus to what lies directly ahead. The promise here is that in humility, our activities will incidentally reveal our hope and draw fresh interactions with our neighbors. Instead of striving so hard to reform the world arounds us, Scripture continually reminds us to be imitators of God. Not as mimics, but as dearly loved children, naturally drawn to the comforting parent who sacrifices for them.

Instead of striving so hard to reform the world arounds us, Scripture continually reminds us to be imitators of God. 

In contrast to the rightness we try to project, what Jesus calls us to is the cross. Through surrender, we’re given the greater strength, the very power of Christ to work within us. This is no ordinary life, but an atypical one—set apart and called as an implement of honor, sanctified and useful to the master (2 Tim. 2:21). Only His power transforms you and me, so why in our human strength and folly do we imagine we can reform others?

If I’ve stopped my Lucy ways, perhaps it’s time I adopted the style of her little brother Linus. Quiet, minding his own business, writing his letters, waiting with hope for the Great Pumpkin. Often he can be found leaning on his elbows, listening to the troubles of a friend. And yes, Linus was known to pontificate a little too loud and too long, but then, nobody’s perfect.

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