When I was in my late teens, I wanted to change the world. I would naively say things like “go big or go home” and applaud all ministries who achieved massive and measurable markers of success while ignoring the smaller ministries. Ironically, I worked for a small ministry, but it did seem to be going places, expanding rapidly, sometimes faster than we could handle.
The longer I served in this ministry, the more missionaries I encountered from other corners of our country and our world, and the more issues and problems I was confronted with. I also encountered many individuals whom I served, and I saw firsthand the huge depravity of humanity in all the pain that these individuals were forced to endure at the hands of others. The more I understood the lostness of our world, and the more I learned about the complexity of many social issues, the more disillusioned I was with notions of grandeur. Though I still hang on to those ideals, it is with much less idealism, naivety, and ignorance. I began to learn that my goal of “changing the world” is a selfish and arrogant one, because it assumes that I can be the saviour of a world that is somehow more lost and broken then I am. I began to realize that I, too, am lost and broken, that I am not the saviour of the world—that is Jesus—and that the best I can do is to bring one person at a time to a God who can change their world. Through my actions, I can’t change the world, but I can help in changing someone’s world. It is a revolution of small acts of love that will make the difference. If our goals are too lofty, we often have our eyes on large measures of worldly success and completely miss out on the person we are called to serve right in front of us.
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in “the big picture” that we forget that the group of people who make up “the big picture” is a group of individual people. We can get so caught up in some false notion of grandeur that any individual becomes expendable to our cause. And suddenly it all becomes about our cause, not God’s cause. It becomes our agenda and not God’s agenda. Though I believe in acting wisely, and keeping God’s big picture in mind, I think we would do well to remember the “small picture”, that is, take time for the people who God places in our path, serving Him by serving them, and not serving some man-made idea of ministry success at the expense of the people right in front of us.
When confronted with the full extent of human depravity and need and our own hopeless inadequacy to fix all that is wrong in the world, many become paralyzed. Not physically paralyzed, but paralyzed in the sense that we stop doing anything. We think that since we can’t fix it all, why bother doing anything? What real difference does it make in light of it all? But we must remember that we do have a God who cares about this broken world and everyone in it, and it is not our job to fix everything, but to be faithful to the Lord.
In light of all of this, our own notions of human glory fade, and we can begin to realize that it is God who changes things. All we can do is play our own small part. We will not change the world through multi-national organizations, global humanitarian enterprises or other lofty-sounding endeavours. We must change the world through the small things. Through small acts of love that should mark the life of the Christian disciple. Do what you can, and leave the rest up to the one who holds the world in his hands..
You may recall the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-28, where 3 servants are given different amounts of money by their master, so they can invest it. The servant given the most money invested wisely and earned a return on his investment. The middle servant did the same, and the servant who was given the least amount of money did not invest it, but hid it until his master returned. Though he gave back the original amount given to him, the master was furious because he did nothing with what he was given. Whether you—rather individually or collectively as a church—have the resources to do large projects or small projects, it matters not. What truly matters is doing what you can with what you have been given. And for most of us, we cannot do much from a worldly perspective. But what little we can do, we can do with great love, and that is a great thing.