I recently found myself rereading the classic piece of prose known as “One Solitary Life”, about the lasting impact of Jesus Christ on history and humanity. Not only do we as Christians believe that Jesus Christ was and is the promised Savior of the world, but His priorities and ethic have forever reshaped the landscape of civilization, in about every way possible. Much has been said and written of Him, more than any single person in the annals of history. Napoleon once spoke of Him,
“I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men the world over would die for Him.”
Here’s a few of the ways Jesus changed the world, in tangible ways many have not or will not acknowledge:
The Value of Children
In the Greek and Roman cultures, as well as many ancient civilizations, infanticide was common. Children were property until of the age of young adulthood, and a father could choose to kill, abandon, or sell into slavery any child that was unwanted- whether female, handicapped, or just one too many. Abortion was rampant in the Roman world. Jesus treated children entirely different. He drew them to Himself, blessed them, loved on them, and said “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:13-16). Throughout history since, Christianity has been the faith known for caring for the orphans and abandoned.
The Value of Human Life
In the ancient world, life was cheap, and only the powerful were considered valuable. The Roman coliseum spectacles are a testament to this lack of value. Slavery has been practiced in every culture, among every people, in every time in history. Christ taught that God loved every single life, and came to “seek and save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10). Christianity’s ethic sought to abolish slavery, and ultimately led to the worldwide acceptance of the intrinsic value of every human life. Our modern human rights movements can trace their ethic to the value Christ placed on persons- made by God, in His image, with an eternal soul.
The Value of Women
In Jesus’ day, women had few rights, in any culture. Throughout history, in nearly every civilization, women were nothing more than property- to be used for pleasure, for children, for housekeeping, and for cooking meals. Women were rarely allowed in public, definitely not without their husband, and not walking with him but behind him. Women could be divorced, discarded, even executed, on very little grounds. This was not just a middle eastern practice either. Most ancient cultures treated women this way. In many parts of the world, they still are, even in our “post-modern” world. But Jesus placed infinite value and worth on womanhood, treating every woman He met with tenderness, respect, honor, and love. Some of His most passionate, committed followers were women, and His ethic shaped the early Church as the Gospel spread across the miles and centuries. For some of my favorites, read about the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), and the women at the tomb (Luke 24).
Morality and Marriage
In pagan cultures, immorality was rampant, and every perversity imaginable was not only permitted, but encouraged. Adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, even pedophilia and bestiality were often endorsed and practiced in religious rituals. Marriage was for procreation, little more. Jesus, although never married, placed deep spiritual value on the institution of marriage, as had ancient Judaism, and forever solidified the makeup of marriage as one man, one woman, for a lifetime (Matthew 19:4-10). Men and women were to love each other, share life together, as co-heirs of the Kingdom of God.
Care for the Poor & Sick
In the ancient world, the poor were ignored, the handicapped were ostracized, and the sick were deemed as under the judgment of the gods. Jesus Christ sought out the poor and valued them, He found the crippled and healed them, and He touched the sick and restored their health. So many examples in the Gospels, I can scarcely single out a solitary instance. Read any page from any of the Gospels and you will see Jesus at work among the “least of these.” Christianity has left a legacy of Christ’s compassion in caring for poor, the hurting, the widows, the prisoners, the infirm. That legacy is undeniable in human history, like it or not.
We could go on.
Sure, there have been numerous instances of Christians failing to live up to Jesus Christ’s life and values across the centuries since. Much injustice has been (wrongly) done in the name of Christianity. But true Christ-followers, those who have sincerely tried to align their lives with the teachings and example of Jesus, have changed the world for the better. And they continue to bring to the world the greatest impact of all- the message of salvation, forgiveness, and restoration found through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
That one, solitary life- really did change everything.