True Systemic Change
In my last post, we discussed how to live in this world’s system without the world living in us. We looked at Romans 12:2 and what the definition of “world” was to find out how we were supposed to interact with it.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
As God’s people, we are physically living in this broken “worldly” system that is at odds with God. While God is actively involved in the lives of His people, Satan is roaming this world seeking whom He may devour. It is easy to begin to assimilate and blend in with the culture around us if we aren’t careful. Some of us choose it because it is easier. We believe blending in avoids conflict and garners peace. Some think that we need to think like the world to be a greater evangelistic voice. But renewed minds will reflect God and not a humanistic view of life and love. It will set us apart and offend many. Not because it is unkind, but because it is true.
Romans 12:1,2 reminds us to reject the world’s system by doing three things:
- Present your bodies a living sacrifice as a form of worship to God. This requires giving up ties to any system that dishonors God. Laying down our old desires for His new ones.
- Be transformed from conformity to the world’s system of thought by renewing our minds. This requires regularly hearing the Word of God and putting it into action. It’s trading our desires for His.
- Test your mind so that you will be able to discern God’s perfect will. This requires comparing your thoughts with Scripture to see if they align. Only if they align will we be able to know God’s will in a situation.
I have no problem believing there are systemic issues in EVERY system of this world. There are no perfect systems this side of eternity. Sinful people are trying to rule other sinful people. When I watch systems of government and institutions acting in unjust ways toward members of its society, I don’t deny its existence. People are out for their own personal gain. They protect their own at all costs at times. It is often required for dissent to happen to expose the darkness that has been lurking in the shadows. Evil doesn’t like to be exposed and a fight ensues. This is a sad reality of righting the injustices on planet Earth.
God has provided a better way than killing, hating, and violating other humans made in His image to restore justice. The way to true systemic change begins with a transformed inner system. As a human, God provides a complete renewal and transformation in the inward system of our hearts, minds, and souls. It is called salvation. A free gift. It just needs to be received with humility and acceptance of our need for forgiveness and a simple belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as a payment for our debt. Jesus bridges the gap between death and life and a corrupt system to a just one.
Without this true inner transformation, we will continue to see the brokenness in alarming ways in the human systems we live in. As man tries to alleviate the problems through system reform, he puts a bandaid on the underlying issues, because the root is not planted in the justice of God. Can you rebuild an issue on a bed of sand? It is only a matter of time until cracks form and it needs to be reformed again.
We see this in the decades long battle over racial equality in our country. While we have come along way in terms of legal protections, we see that the hearts of men and women are still holding on to false beliefs about people of color. Laws are needed to deter evil, and we should work to protect against injustices, but we see that they don’t fix the root of the problem…conformity to a world system at odds with God. A belief that some lives are less valuable than others. This is played out in a myriad of ways in the world’s system through abortion, child abuse, sex trafficking, racial inequality, and immigration issues. It is hard to see how God would honor any of our attempts when we treat innocent life with such disregard.
For Christians, how do we hold both our faith in God’s transforming power with the human systems of reform?
We wrestle. We pray. We ask for discernment. We look at what is in front of us and we act justly to those placed in our lives. We participate as citizens of both Earth and Heaven. We approach change from the perspective given in Scripture – love for God leads to love for man. We don’t ignore either of them. We serve and love the strangers, immigrants, and the “least of these”. We vote our conscience as God leads us. This requires we seek His input first. We listen to the cries of the people and see if there is truth to their claims of injustice. We come alongside them in ways God leads to correct the wrongs. But we do so as transformed people – those who renew their minds and know the truth of God’s word. Not just parts of Scripture, but as a whole. We can hold more than one truth at the same time. We don’t allow hate, word wars, political rhetoric, or personal bias to shape our approach to justice. All of our efforts come from an overflow of love as we reflect God’s love to others. Anything short is a clashing cymbal.
In what ways does God’s system contradict the world’s in our political arena today? How should our view look different as Christians in this place between?
Here are 4 main systems in our country that are contentious in our culture due to the polarizing systems of thought that shape them.
Family – The world’s system says that family structure doesn’t matter. We see an increasing deterioration of family systems in our world due to this unjust mindset. And so much of the injustices in our sinful world are a result of this faulty system. Man thinks he knows better. He thinks he knows about love. But it is all unjust and unmerciful without the transforming power of Christ in our families. Things out of our control and natural consequences of living in the world will produce orphans, widows, and single parent homes. God designed the Church to fill in that gap, though we have not always risen to meet the need. But most of our broken families or families formed outside of God’s design are a direct result of conforming to a system that denies God’s authority of His own creation. What amazing systemic change would happen if our minds were renewed in the biblical concept of family?
Education – I would say that the world’s overall goal in education is far from bringing glory to God and passing on His truth to future generations. When training up a mind, it is impossible to not act unjustly toward the student without pointing them to the truth of who God is. If He is not the foundation, then the framework around those things will be skewed. From anatomy, history, science, and literature, the root of how something is taught either promotes a worldly system or God’s system. Those who are in the world’s system will face confusion if not challenged to renew their minds and learn to discern truth from error. The Bible commands parents to train up their children in the things of God and to teach them as they are going through life to love God and others. We must be paying attention to how this system undermines this goal. If we are a part of it, there needs to be constant testing and renewal of what is going into hearts and minds. What kind of systemic change would happen if the people of God were renewing and shaping the conversations around education?
Healthcare – Greed compromises the healthcare system’s fundamental purpose. The goal of medicine should be to help sick people. That’s it. A fair compensation for their services is good and just. But look how far we have come from this good purpose. I would suggest that without a God centered approach to the human body, Satan has distorted the system so vastly that it causes much pain to those already suffering. Wondering how to treat a dying child without money for expensive medicine is such an injustice. Where is the compassion and respect for human life? I am not sure God will help us solve this issue as long as we collectively deny the life He designed and created in the womb as sacred. What kind of systemic change would happen if we repented of this grievous sin and began to renew our minds in the word of God toward the value of life and compassion for hurting people?
Government – God instituted government to protect and defend its citizens. This system is supposed to punish evil doers and protect good citizens. (Romans 13:4) History reveals how far we come at times from fulfilling this role. Greed allows evil doers to buy their freedom. Pride allows those in authority to misuse their power. Popularity over character votes people in office. Our frail humanity allows for us to misjudge and make mistakes – sometimes without even knowing. How we long for true justice and mercy. Where government was designed for good, man has distorted it for evil. As believers, we renew our minds with verses like Hebrews 12:14 that encourages us to strive for peace as much as we are able. We follow the admonition in I Cor. 6:19-20 to glorify God in our bodies. We read Romans 13 about showing respect for the God given government that rules over us.
As we renew our minds in these truths, God gives us the ability to discern what the will of God is in areas of confusion. How do we interact with politics in a God honoring way? How far do we protest things the government calls good but are contrary to God’s word? What kinds of systemic change would occur within our government if we stopped to seek Him and renew our minds before taking a stand? It’s hard to stand when the foundation is not under us.
Transformation is ongoing. We never reach a point where we don’t need to renew our minds. Living in the midst of this world’s system is tough. Without proper foundations, our systems crumble. We see the world crumbling all around us. For many, with good intent, we spend more time trying to right all the wrongs of the world and fail to renew the wrong thinking that taints our own minds. We fail to love our neighbor by speaking the truth of the deepest systemic change they need…a soul that is safely hidden in Christ. May we be transformed within to produce lasting change without.
What will you spend time doing today to renew your mind and reject the world’s system?