This week we celebrate Easter–the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Two-thirds of our global population will take time to honor these events in some way with cross walks, worship services, family gatherings, or even Easter egg hunts (the only major exception being the Muslim nations).
Some may have not thought deeply about the impact of Jesus, but all have affected by it.
To the majority of people in the world, Jesus is an honored historical figure who was was the founder of Christianity–but that is about as far as it goes. Many have no idea that his death and resurrection has had an unsurpassed effect on the history of man. In fact without the death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, life on planet earth would be incomprehensibly different from what it is today.
Easter changed the world–made it very different than what came before.
How different? Let’s take a look.
The essence of Jesus’ mission was to save the individual lives of every person who chooses to put their trust in him. He didn’t just point the way to a set of ideals or moral principles as many other teachers did. Rather, he promised when we were “born again by his Spirit” he would come to live inside of us, guiding and empowering people to live meaningful and godly lives.
At the age of fifteen I put my trust in Christ to forgive my sins and come into my life. He did. From the very beginning I experienced his presence, power, guidance, correction, and empowering which changed everything in my world. I was no longer “wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24)–but was set “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). There was a new dynamite–dynamic–power–to live a productive life. Over the past two thousand years, it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ in millions, and now billions of people, that has altered the landscape of history through changing individual lives.
Similarly, no one altered the role of women is society more than the resurrection of Jesus. Prior to New Testament times, women labored in harsh, subservient roles, often nothing more than slaves to men and their families. Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton point out in their liberating book Why Not Women? that the Greek philosopher Cicero likened women to “slaves, dogs, horses, and donkeys”–all possessions to be used and cast away.
Jesus’ miraculous life elevated women to equal worth in God’s sight and complimentary roles in the marriage relationship. ALL of the women’s rights we enjoy, especially in the past two hundred years, were produced by the Christian faith. Even in Muslim societies today, women are second-class citizens. Not in the Christian West where women have all the same rights as anyone else. If you’re a woman, living in a Western nation, you can thank Jesus Christ for the freedoms you enjoy.
Also, though the Church has not always properly applied the teachings of Christ, it is also true that no group of people have made a more positive impact on the history of the world than the Christian Church. The “Church”–the “called out ones” (Greek = ekklesia)– transformed the Roman Empire, rescued “learning” from the destruction of the Middle Ages, raised Europe out of barbarism, pioneered the New World, and sent Christian civilization to the ends of the earth.
History would be unrecognizable today without the acts of God’s people in every century. Without the compassion, evangelism, humanitarian, and social justice works of the Church in scores of nations, the lives of millions today would be without hope.
One of the things we both criticize and take for granted in the 21st century is the positive role of human governments that were shaped by Christianity. Prior to the Christian faith being applied to civil government, people lived in perpetual fear of massacres and tyrants. Your town could be here one day and be burned to the ground the next. You could be alive one day and dead the next. Power and fear ruled human societies for much of human history.
But after the death and resurrection of Christ, the biblical role of civil government began to emerge through the Magna Charta, British common law, republican governments, democratic principles, and human rights. These things weren’t just the evolutionary march of history–they were incremental applications of Christ’s teachings to human governments.
Do you appreciate armies and police that protect us? Do you value the right to vote and elect your representatives? Do you appreciate the relative tranquility of a just social order? All of these things–which are not enjoyed in many non-Christian nations in the world–are the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ.
Most of the major milestones in human education flow from one fountain: faith in Jesus Christ. Did you know that we would have lost the great literature of Greece and Rome (and all of the ancient world) if it weren’t for the Christian monks who preserved that knowledge through finding, preserving, and copying all the ancient writings during the Middle Ages? Are you aware that the first universities in Paris and London were started by believers who had a thirst for knowledge and wisdom?
Did you know that the printing of the Gutenberg Bible was considered by TIME magazine the most important event of the past five hundred years because it made truth and knowledge easily available to the masses? Have you heard that the first one hundred and twenty universities in America, beginning with Harvard, were started by followers of Christ for the advancement of the Christian faith?
Even the development of human work, labor and industry, finds its zenith in the application of Christian truths. For most of history, and still in some parts of the world, there were only a few wealthy tyrants and teeming masses of poor people. For thousands of years there was no middle class and no freedom for individual initiative. During the Christianizing of Europe, this all changed as believers applied biblical concepts of labor and industry which eventually became free enterprise capitalism that led the world out of its mass poverty.
As Adam Smith wisely pointed out, the Wealth of Nationswas simply the fruit of applying the reality of Christ to economics. The large and growing middle classes, the endless business opportunities, the Protestant work ethic, extensive philanthropy, and the standard of living we share today is the fruit of the teachings of Christ. When you purchase your next gizmo or wonder drug, thank God that the free enterprise system you currently enjoy is built on faith from start to finish.
Rodney Stark in his marvelous book For the Glory of God rightly points out modern science was born of the Christian faith and not in opposition to it. It was Christian civilization that proposed that “design points to a Designer”–and that man was placed on the earth to discover God’s secrets in nature and use those discoveries to benefit people.
From Galileo to Faraday, from Pascal to Einstein, the leading scientists of both the past and present have overwhelmingly been people of faith who used their trust in Jesus Christ to unlock the mysteries of his creation. I recently visited the Kennedy Space Center and gazed in awe at the technology and scientific genius that put men on the moon. None of this would have been possible without believing in a God whose creation can be understood. That Creator is the resurrected Christ.
Francis Schaeffer pointed out in his landmark book How Should We Then Live?that the coming of Christ greatly influenced the arts–that prior to Christ’s birth, all music was played in minor chords, showing the incompleteness and lack of harmony in life. After Christ’s death and resurrection brought wholeness to individuals and nations, people began creating major chord music and realistic art–an expression of their reconciliation to God. Picture the totem pole faces and primitive art forms of pagan peoples. They always look wild, menacing, and evil.
Not after Jesus died and rose! He brought healing, peace, and completeness to thousands of lives who then reflected that wholeness in ever expanding art forms. It’s a long ways from lewd and angry totem poles to the Sistine Chapel–but Christ produced the difference. When lives are changed and brought into right relationship to God, they sing, paint, and give him glory in the arts. This is why more hymns and songs have been written about Jesus than any other person in history.
The love of Jesus Christ–as demonstrated on the Cross of Calvary–has made the greatest mark upon the world. “God is love,” and Jesus’ horrific sufferings on behalf of sinful people showed the world once and for all that God cares for each one of us and provided a way out of our guilt and self destruction. For two thousand years, followers of the loving Christ have carried his compassion and care to peoples everywhere.
Nations have been won through his love; The majority of hospitals and compassion ministries around the globe have been launched in his Name; When there are earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, and typhoons, God’s love through his people runs to alleviate human suffering via the Red Cross, World Vision, and thousands of other agencies. Where would our world be without the love of Christ as expressed through his people?
Jesus was not just a good man who founded a great religion. He was the Son of God, sent on a mission to transform the world through changing individual lives. I want you to imagine for a moment what your life would like if he hadn’t died and rose again!
You’d be powerless in your sins, separated from God forever. If you’re a woman, you’ve had no rights or future. Your family would be broken and dysfunctional. You’d have no worship or fellowship. You’d be living under a tyrant, without education, and in miserable poverty. You would be fearful of nature (creation), your art forms would express those fears. You would lack faith, hope, and love in this life–and the next.
Unfortunately, that description fits the circumstances of some people alive today–who have not heard of Jesus and the wonder of his love. Let’s be faithful to take his Good News to them.
The so-far turbulent 21st century needs to once again focus on the greatest Person of history–Jesus Christ. During this holiest of weeks, we need to pray that mena nd women, families, and whole nations will look to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins and power to live wholesome and effective lives.
We must never forget that Easter–the death and resurrection of Jesus–radically changed the world for good.
Let’s ask Him to do it again in our generation.