John Stott: Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World
Now, I don't think that Clatworthy is a Christian. Her appeal is not to the authority of Scripture but to the findings of sociology. And yet her sociological research vindicates the wisdom of Christian ethics as it applies to the institution of marriage. It reminds us that God's truth has power, in both its biblical and non-biblical guises.
Our third power as Christians is the power of example. Truth is powerful when it's argued. It's more powerful when it's exhibited. People need not only to understand the argument. They need to see the benefits of the argument with their own eyes. It's hard to exaggerate the power for good that a thoroughly Christian family can exert, for instance, in a public housing development. The whole community can see the husband and wife loving and honoring one another, devoted and faithful to one another, and finding fulfillment in one another. They see the children growing up in the security of a loving and disciplined home. They see a family not turned in on itself, but turned outward—entertaining strangers, welcoming, keeping an open home, seeking to get involved in the concerns of the community. One Christian nurse in a hospital; one Christian teacher in a school; one Christian in a shop, in a factory, or in an office—we will all make a difference, for good or for ill.
Christians are marked people. The world is watching. And God's major way of changing the old society is to implant within it his new society, with its different values, different standards, different joys, and different goals. Our hope is that the watching world will see these differences, and find them attractive, that they "may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
Fourth, Christians have the power of group solidarity—the power of a dedicated minority. According to the American sociologist Robert Belair, at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, "We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision."
That was the way of Jesus. He began with a small group of only 12 dedicated people. Within a few years, Roman officials complained they were turning the world upside down. There is a great need for dedicated Christian groups committed to one another, committed to a vision of justice, committed to Christ; groups that will pray together, think together, formulate policies together, and get to work together in the community.
Do you want to see your national life made more pleasing to God? Do you have a vision of a new godliness, a new justice, a new freedom, a new righteousness, a new compassion? Do you wish to repent of sub-Christian pessimism? Will you reaffirm your confidence in the power of God, in the power of prayer, of truth, of example, of group commitment—and of the gospel? Let's offer ourselves to God, as instruments in his hands—as salt and light in the community. The church could have an enormous influence for good, in every nation on earth, if it would commit itself totally to Christ. Let's give ourselves to him, who gave himself for us.
John R. W. Stott (1921-2011) was rector of All Souls Church in London, founder of Langham Partnership International, and the author of many books. This article is adapted from a sermon published on Christianity Today's sister website PreachingToday.com.