We are the generation that wants to change the world. Ours is the one that will tear down barriers of race, class, and gender. We will fight injustice. We will feed the hungry. We will free the sex slave. We will save the planet.
Day after day, we join the millions of electronic voices raised for social change. We follow hashtags and retweet. We fight valiantly and wrestle in the comments section for the truth. We share and advocate. We will make something of our lives. We will fight for what really matters, things of massive significance–national initiatives, political elections, federal agendas, global problems.
Click after click and share after share, we are determined to make our lives count. Each of us is seeking a way to make our small existence–with its seemingly meaningless chores, tasks, and daily duties–seem…
But what if we are pursuing significance the wrong way? What if the way to making a lasting eternal difference is through the obscurity of investing in whatever small town or neighborhood we have been placed? What if the way to change the world is not to escape Nowheresville, USA, but to dig down deep in our communities?
There’s just one problem:
There is no global initiative for visiting the widow down the street.
There is no hashtag about walking into the black or hispanic neighborhood a few blocks over, knocking on a door, and introducing yourself.
There is no online community about sitting down with three preschoolers in a tiny church to teach them about Jesus.
Most of social media is a well-intentioned lie. Day after day, we are telling ourselves we are a force for global change, when in reality we are accomplishing nothing. It’s a lie that we can change the world without knowing the names of our neighbors. It’s a lie that we can change the world by typing #BlackLivesMatter without ever setting foot in a black community. It’s a lie to believe we are “helping the kids” by arguing about federal funding for public schools having never spent time with the students from the one down the road.
It’s a lie for me to believe you will remember this post for more than 30 seconds after you swipe it.
If the world was unplugged, would there be any evidence that you ever lived? Whose lives in your community have been changed? Who have you discipled? How have you served faithfully in the humdrum of kids’ Sunday school or local foster care or reading buddies? Did you build a community garden or help feed the poor in your town?
If the only place your voice and passion for change is heard is online, do you really have a voice?
Causes are great. Coupled with real action they can motivate social change. But people are the only things eternal. Hashtags don’t have souls. Memes are not faces. Social media creates an illusion that we get to narrate our own story. The truth of the matter is that after you are gone, the names and faces you leave behind will be the ones to tell your tale.
We are all grasping at significance outside of our small, daily lives–have we ever stopped to think that maybe true significance actually lies in the living of our small, daily lives?
Could it be that change doesn’t come by going viral or sharing clever memes or being swept up by the latest trending topic? What if by small deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes? What if it’s going to take simple, faithful Christians taking a hard look at the people around them and deciding to love, to sacrifice, to preach the gospel, to consider others better than themselves?
Jesus did not come to start a movement, but to save his people (Matthew 1:21). He did not deal in hypotheticals, but in reality: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). He looked upon the faces of the crowds and felt compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
Have you seen the sheep? The ones wandering aimlessly in your community? The ones broken and battered? The ones fallen and dirty? The ones desperate for help? Those hidden in darkness in need of salvation?
They are walking right past you. Or rather you just walked right past them as you were reading this on your screen.