“Be the Change That You Wish to See in the World.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

There are a great number of professions whose novices hold the same sentiment: I want to make a difference. I want to change the world. This is true of junior senators, rookie police officers, young law school graduates, teachers, mental health counselors, pastors, nurses, and many others. Reporters are motivated to make a positive impact on society. They live to be first with the basic facts of a newsworthy development. I read a comment from a reporter who said, “When you can look at all the dots everyone can look at, and be the first to connect them in a meaningful and convincing way, that’s something.” That’s exactly what Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did when they cracked the Watergate case wide open in June of 1972.

Writers and poets also hope to make a lasting impression on the world. Dylan Thomas said, “Some people react physically to the magic of poetry, to  the moments, that is, of authentic revelation, of the communication, the sharing, at its highest level. A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.” The questions raised by Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mocking Bird were part of a conversation that echoed around the country. It’s a conversation that is still going on in America in 2016. The book endures because people can relate to it in so many different ways. It’s about race. It’s about prejudice. It’s about childhood. It’s about parenting. It’s about love. It’s about loneliness. Atticus Finch understood the importance of being the change that you wish to see in others.

Although Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me is a worthy sentiment, what I am speaking about has more to do with what God is producing in me than what I am producing on my own. When we get outside of our production mindset, we’re able to look at what it means to “bear fruit” with fresh eyes. This phrase does not refer to our own good deeds, but rather speaks about the fruit of the Spirit that God cultivates within us. To “bear fruit” means for a thing to reproduce that which resembles its very essence. More importantly, the thing can only produce more of the thing itself. To put it another way, we cannot effect positive change in the world from a position of darkness or weakness or selfishness. Our desire to change society must be rooted in a wish to improve life for everyone, not to change the rules or circumstances to serve our own interests.

Our good works are not the purpose of our calling. Our calling is not defined by the earthly outcomes of our efforts. No, our calling is to bear fruit from above: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) It is primarily in this way that we are made useful in the work of justice. The Bible never speaks of our role in the pursuit of justice and restoration outside of our relationship to and with God, because there is no such thing as justice outside of God. This is why it can be so exhausting and infuriating for us, and potentially destructive for those we think we’re helping, to pursue justice separate from God.

It is right to want to make a difference. To improve things. Those of us who have found a solution to self-centeredness then find it possible to grow more Christ-like. Of course, this needs to happen before we can find our calling or purpose. It truly does feel good to stop living a life of thievery, manipulation, deception and bullying. It is freeing to stop judging others and using others, and start looking toward Christ for our identity. Some will tell you that turning your will and your life over to God will make you a non-entity. Some kind of automaton. Let me assure you that is a lie from the devil. It is liberating to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.

Calling is not a code to crack. God is not holding out on us. We won’t find fulfillment in achievement. We’ll find peace when we understand our purpose is not to seek justice, but to become the type of people who want to seek justice. You don’t need to graduate, start that non-profit, get that job offer, or wait for the kids to leave the house in order to start making a difference. You can be the change you wish to see in others. So yeah, let it begin with you.


3 Replies to ““Be the Change That You Wish to See in the World.” (Mahatma Gandhi)”

  1. I love the Christian perspective you’ve added to the wisdom popularly attributed to Gandhi.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a baptist minister, drew heavily from the teachings of Gandhi, modeling the civil rights movement after Gandhi’s practices of non-violence in civil protest.

    I agree with your perspectives, and think you’d appreciate this article I wrote, clarifying what Gandhi actually said, that we commonly paraphrase as “be the change you want to see in the world.” Yes, he didn’t actually say those words, here’s what he *did* say: https://josephranseth.com/gandhi-didnt-say-be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world/


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