Leo Tolstoy, who wrote War and Peace, once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” When I read that quote I thought about the various commencement addresses that I have heard over the years, as well as the different speeches that I have heard given to young people. One idea that is repeated over and over is the idea that with the coming of age comes also the opportunity to change the world. Yet, what is the change that we seek?
Certainly we want a world where there is less violence and crime, a world where people are nicer to each other. We want a world where people work together to solve the problems of the world instead of opposing each other to create more problems. We want a world that is filled with peace, where wars are a thing of the past. All in all we want a better world than the one we currently have, and the quickest way for that to happen is for people to change their ways. Yet, who is it that needs to change?
The common assumption that many have is that the world will be a better place if others will make the changes necessary to become better people. After all it is other people who are the problem. I have often joked that if everyone agreed with me then the world would be such a better place. If I could just convince everyone else to change who they are then we will in fact have a better world and I could be credited with changing the world. Yet, perhaps we are looking for change in the wrong place.
It is true that a changed world is only going to happen when everyone’s heart is transformed by God’s Spirit, so that we all have, like King David, a heart for God. Yet, instead of seeking that change in others we should seek that change in ourselves first and foremost. I am reminded of the song that we sing in worship each week, Let There Be Peace on Earth. We sing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Just as peace on earth begins with peace in our own hearts, so also a changed world begins when we are changed, when we are transformed by God’s Spirit.
Jesus told us that if we seek we shall find. If we ask it will be given to us. In the context of that passage Jesus was referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we ask for the gift of God’s Spirit, God will indeed give us this wonderful gift. So, let us ask for God’s Spirit more and more, seeking to be transformed by God’s Spirit. When we do so, we shall find that the world will change because we ourselves will be changed.