Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 26

Why do you think Christians have always been at the forefront of social reform?

Atheist Jϋrgen Habermas, in ‘A time of Transition’ (2006) said, ‘Christianity, and nothing else [is] the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilisation. To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source.’

On both sides of the Atlantic, and across the world, it was Christianity that gave us our universities, with the freedom to study, and the laws that protect the right to propagate people’s views.

(For further quotations from Wilberforce:

William Wilberforce went to Parliament, at the age of 21, as a self-seeking politician. Through the influence of brilliant Cambridge scholar, Isaac Milner, Wilberforce asked Jesus Christ to become his Lord and Saviour. He put behind him the win-at-all-costs politics and devoted himself to serve Christ. He established schools for the deaf and blind, lending libraries, trade schools and colleges. He helped in the founding of the National Gallery and the RSPCA, and funded scientific research, the distribution of Bibles and the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was responsible for the abolition of the National Lottery of his day. He is most remembered for his work for the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire. And the motivation for all these reforms was the transformation he experienced the moment he, as an M.P., trusted Jesus Christ. He said that it was God who motivated him.

Similar stories can be told about the impact of Christian conversion on the lives of Dr. Thomas Barnardo and George Müller, both responsible for the establishing of orphanages; Elizabeth Fry and John Howard who brought about prison reform. Lord Shaftesbury, known as ‘the friend of the poor’, toured asylums showing compassion. He worked for the abolition of the use of half naked women, and children in hauling coal in mines. He legislated against child chimney sweeps, fed starving children, and built new and better housing estates. Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets at his funeral, knowing that ‘the poor man’s earl’ had served the God He trusted, and for His sake, served the poor.

Henry Dunant, who founded the Red Cross, David Livingstone who was so loved in Africa, Florence Nightingale who served compassionately in the Crimean War, were each Christian people. Tens of thousands of others served and serve across the world, respecting others, caring for the underdogs of societies, sharing with them the good news of Jesus because He has done so much for them.

The Bible teaches that if anyone is ‘in Christ’ he or she becomes a new creation, the old life goes and a new life begins. Jesus taught us to love those around us, even our enemies; Christians are commanded to care for the poor, the weak, widows and orphans. He said,

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in Heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Undoubtedly there have been – and are – kind and compassionate people who do not trust in Jesus, but it is He who changes the selfish and makes them selfless, who gives His heart of love to those who follow Him and the power to do the work that He prepares for those who come to know Him personally.

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