Something Needs to Change
Book(Re)marks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired by Something Needs to Change, by David Platt.
In Something Needs to Change, David Platt recounts his experiences trekking through the Himalayas with two friends, a guide (Aaron), and a translator (Nabin). Together, these men encountered a part of the world to which the name of Jesus Christ is largely unknown.
It’s also a part of the world where the physical needs match the depth of the spiritual needs.
For example, Platt met Kamal, who lost an eye to an infection. He learned that Nabin had been chained in a barn as a child, as punishment for running away from an abusive home. Platt looked into the pleading eyes of a young girl who didn’t speak English – but her need for food was clear by her frail appearance and insistent gestures.
Platt also interacted with a classroom of children, only to learn days later that one of the boys had died from an illness that is readily treatable in western countries. He listened to one woman’s story of how her parents had been murdered for converting to Christianity. He heard stories of how sex-traffickers convince parents to send their daughters to “school” in the city, only to force the girls into prostitution; at the end of his hike when Platt walked into one such city, he saw a twelve-year-old girl motion for him to join her inside the establishment where she worked.
His experience forced him to weigh the people’s spiritual needs against their physical needs. Faced with the deprivation of food and basic medicine, and with the evils of human trafficking, what good were his nightly prayers doing for the people he met?
Yet, what use is temporary physical relief if the eternal needs of the soul are not addressed?
Platt realized, “Something needs to change.” That’s true for each of us. What we’re doing is not enough. A good look around tells us that much.
But exactly what that change will look like will be different for each of us. Some of us may need to move to a different part of the country – or a different part of the world. Some of us may need to volunteer more of our time, or donate more of our money. Some of us need to pray more consistently and purposefully.
But if we want Christ to impact the world, one thing is clear: we have to be involved. We must remember that Jesus is no longer on Earth – at least not in the same way he was two thousand years ago. Instead, the human form of Jesus has been replaced with the Body of Christ – that is, the Church.
Let’s unpack this idea a little more.
In 2 Corinthians 12:27, Paul writes, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (NIV). That is, individually, we are the hands, feet, nose, ears, and eyes of Christ. As such, we each serve different functions. Thus, we will each have different roles in the change that needs to come.
But there is one thing about body parts – they may have different functions, but they do not work in isolation.
In fact, in order to function, a body part needs to receive instructions from the brain; it has to be connected to the brain through the body’s network of nerves. When the brain sends a message to the hand, that message travels through the neck, shoulder, and arm. Sever the hand’s connection to the brain, and the hand becomes lifeless. Useless.
That’s why, as we discussed last month, the church needs to meet together. As individual parts, we still need to stay connected to the body.
We also know that Jesus is the head of the Church (e.g., Colossians 1:18). That is, he serves as the brain. And like our brains send orders to our bodies, Jesus sends orders to his body. He does this through the Holy Spirit, which serves as our nervous system: our direct connection to Christ.
So, when Jesus sees a need, he sends a signal to us, his hands: “Feed the hungry. Visit those in prison.” Jesus wants us to serve those less fortunate than us: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:13).
If we are a hand, we must reach out to those in need – such as the young, starving girl Platt saw in the Himalayas, or the homeless people in our own city.
When Jesus sees someone who is hurting, he sends a signal to us, his heart, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). We are told to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). We are to love the unlovely and the unlovable – even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
If we are a heart, we must have compassion for those who hurt – such as Kamal, whose body is being ravaged by an infection, or Alisha whose parents were murdered for believing in Christ.
When Jesus sees people who do not know him, he sends a signal to us, his feet: “Preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Although all body parts are blessed, the feet (and tongue) receive special recognition: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news… who proclaim salvation” (Isaiah 52:7).
If we are a foot, we must carry the Gospel to a dying world; if we are a tongue, we must share the love of Christ and the message of reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:20) – even if that means going to distant villages, like Ben did. Ben uses his expertise in aquaponics to bring food (and the Gospel) to remote villages in the Himalayas.
Again, if Jesus is to accomplish his work on Earth today, it will be through his body, the Church. As part of the body of Christ, it’s our job to respond to the brain’s signals.
And his work is more than spiritual. James writes, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (2:15-16).
Praying for someone isn’t enough, at least not when there is something we can do for them. If someone is hungry, don’t just pray and ask God to feed them – give them a meal in the name of Jesus. Then, pray for them.
We must do what we can, and pray about what we can’t.
Think of it this way: we are Christ’s nail-scarred hands, his nail-scarred feet.
Yes, we are scarred by the consequences of sin, but we have risen from baptism to new life in order to fulfill the purposes of God. It’s up to us to imitate the miracles of Jesus: to feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, heal the sick, comfort the mourners, set the captives free by telling them the Good News. These are the things our Head is telling us to do.
And we can do these things. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (14:12-14).
Do we do “even greater things” than Jesus’ miracles? Perhaps not in power – but in number. As a man, Jesus could only reach so many people. He was limited to being in one place at a time, and somewhat limited by human capabilities (e.g., needing sleep).
But the body of Christ can extend across the globe. It can work in shifts, day and night. Jesus can use the body of Christ to touch more people in a single day than he was able to touch physically in three years of earthly ministry.
Together, we are the Church – the body of Christ. A unified whole, composed of individual parts. We can do more together than we could do separately.
Let’s close with a question from Platt’s book (page 131): “Thinking creatively, what opportunities exist around you right now to use your God-given, unique gifts to affect others in need and spread gospel hope? How could those same gifts be used in places far from where you live?”
Feel free to share opportunities God has placed on your heart in the comments below…