Yes We Can! - Change
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” - 2 Corinthians 3:18
There has been so much talk of change lately. As the entire world watched enviously, Americans were recently told, “Yes we can! Yes, we can change!” Both political parties had promised change. Now, regardless of which presidential candidate one voted for, we are all waiting to see what change the next four years will actually hold.
I wonder though, What if all the promises of change that politicians make were to be fulfilled? What then? Would this world really be so different than it is today? All this talk of change reminds me of a young Macedonian king who stormed across Asia in the fourth century B.C. With 30,000 warriors, Alexander blazed a trail of victorious battles from Asia Minor to North Africa and beyond the Khyber Pass onto the plains of India. Before he died at the age of 32, Alexander had expanded his realm of influence to an unprecedented breadth. Remnants of his culture and language remained long after his death, continuing to hold their influence even to this day.
Through the centuries Alexander has been remembered as The Great, yet by at least one measure his legacy turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Following his death, his kingdom was torn apart more rapidly than the amount of time it took him to establish it. In other words, he gave the world a culture and language but no kingdom. He was the ancient equivalent of an entrepreneur who builds a business empire that disintegrates in the months following his own retirement. Or, we might compare Alexander to a gifted communicator whose congregation scatters to the wind soon after he leaves for another post.
The secret to Alexander’s explosive success and the reason for the evaporation of his kingdom are one and the same. He had no interest in conquering the soul. His kingdom was skin deep. His name was known and revered across the earth, yet souls were untouched. For Alexander, this was an intentional decision. He prided himself on leaving his subjects alone to cling to their own idols and keep their private little kingdoms intact. He demanded almost no taxes from his conquered subjects, once even saying, “I hate the gardener who cuts to the root the vegetables of which he ought to cull the leaves.”
In other words, Alexander anticipated reaping a harvest without paying much attention to the roots.
Yes We Can! – Real Change
Another king was born about three centuries after Alexander’s megastar legacy was enshrined across Greek speaking Asia. As a small child, Jesus may have even scampered through the alleys of Alexandria, the great Mediterranean coastal city Alexander had marked out and ordered built on the north coast of Egypt. This was the second largest city on earth at the time, and home to the greatest population of Jews outside of Palestine. Whether Jesus ever stepped foot in Alexandria or not, he lived his entire 33 years in the windblown ashes of Alexander’s conquests.
As he grew up, Jesus must have pondered the emergence of his own kingdom. He too, would lead warriors over deserts, mountain passes and onto distant shores. But his realm would be so much deeper. He had no intention of forming a paper thin kingdom that would breeze across nations only to shrivel up and evaporate, leaving a somewhat hollow shroud of rituals, religious verbiage and Tuesday night bingo tournaments.
Jesus was a radical. The word radical is defined as “arising from, or going to the root, or source.” Ah, the audacity of Jesus! His kingdom would be pervasive. Beginning with the soul, he would then conquer hearts, minds, bodies, passions and possessions. His kingdom would indeed cut to the roots, setting humanity free, permeating and ruling over all of the cosmos. Jesus was no doubt aware of Alexander’s words about the zealous gardener when he said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the Gardener. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit … He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Speaking for the Gardener that Alexander had claimed to disdain, Jesus then boldly proclaimed that any tumbleweed who does not abide in him would wither up and be hurled into a fire.
I am reminded of my good friend Rasinus, who was born in the remote Indonesian village of Samalantan. When Rasinus was eight years old, his father died. His mother had little money and could no longer afford to raise her children. Following the funeral, Rasinus, his three younger sisters and baby brother were taken away to live with different families. Rasinus’ childhood became a cauldron of painful memories, rejection, loneliness and hopelessness. He spent some time at a local orphanage, then it suddenly closed. He ended up sleeping on the streets, surviving with the occasional help of a motorcycle mechanic. A lost soul, Rasinus began to get involved in gangs and selling drugs. At this point in Rasinus’ life, all the words, rhetoric, maneuvering, welfare programs, conservatism, liberalism, promises and political philosophies on earth had no chance of ever helping him.
Just like all of us, Rasinus desperately needed something much deeper.
In this moment of desperation, Rasinus was invited to stay in one of Mustard Seed’s children’s homes. There he encountered even more than a place to sleep, safety, schooling, and three meals a day. He encountered the living God. Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” From the inside out, Rasinus began to experience transformation. As a teenager, he was filled to overflowing with the fruits of the Spirit. Reborn, his life was awakened, activated and unleashed. Rasinus began to dream of a future serving others, of winning souls, and of advancing God’s kingdom. Today, Rasinus is in his last semester towards completing his Master’s degree in Theology. Now working as a Mustard Seed missionary teacher, he has returned back to his own village, the original location where his mother still lives. There, where there is no school, he is in the process of building a new Christian school.
Rebirth. Life. Transformation. Redemption. Awakening. Hope … and yes, change.
“Yes, he can! Yes, HE can change the world!” When seen in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how these words sizzle and leap in our hearts! They represent what we are so passionate about. They drive us to our knees, burn in our hearts and motivate us to persevere.
“God, continue to work in and through the movement of Mustard Seed missions in India, Africa and Southeast Asia. Bring hope and transformation into the lives of children and teenagers, setting them free to rise up and honor you with redeemed souls and transformed lives.”