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most striking characteristic of the ordinary man to-day
is his helplessness.
is the bewildered spectator of events over which he has
apparently no control, but which affect him profoundly.
A troubled rumour spreads through the markets of the world,
and he finds the value of his savings halved or his employment
gone. He watches the drift of political policy that he knows
may land him and his family into the unspeakable horrors
of another war, and he sees nothing that he can do about
it. When he does try to do something and goes to the poll
to vote into office a new government, he reaps results that
bear little relation to the promises of the election platform.
He joins a Peace organization, but when the echoes of the
speeches he hears at its demonstrations die away, he can
hear louder than ever the noise of the forge and factory
where the nations are making the weapons of new warfare.
does not, of course, live with his helplessness all the
time. He could not bear it. He must escape, and does so
in different ways. It may be into forgetfulness--the forgetfulness
either of self-centred pleasure or of self-centred piety.
A man can shut out the world and its urgency at a cinema
or a dance. He can leave it out of count while he seeks
his individual salvation.
the other hand, he may escape from the sense of helplessness
into some form of practical social service. He may bestir
himself to do something, without having any very clear sense
of direction or any great confidence that what he is doing
will prove effective. But it relieves him to be in action.
is the simple truth about millions of ordinary men and women
all over the world. Whether they are contriving to forget
about it most of the time, or to reassure themselves by
activity, the background of their life is the sense of frustration
and impotence. If they are sustained by any hope, it is
the vague hope--so near to despair--that something will
happen somehow, or that someone else will do something about
it. In any case, whatever is going to happen does not seem
to have any real connexion with anything that they as individuals
is the paralysis that grips the world. It has also gripped
the one body of men and women who should have the answer
to paralysis-the Christian Church. So few people are left
with any strong and impelling faith that their individual
lives and actions have significance beyond themselves, and
can avail in the bringing of a new and liberated world.
The task of changing the world appears so gigantic and so
remote that it daunts any attempt to make a personal contribution
towards it. Unless we can demonstrate to men and women that
there is a real way of remaking the world, and that they
can become effective partners in it, they will remain the
helpless spectators of the drift to destruction. The sheer
weight of their inaction will quicken its pace.
is the basis of the Christian hope of a new world? What
part have I in its making?
hope of a new world, which men and women of the pre-war
generation entertained, was based either on a general faith
in the inevitability of progress-a faith born in a partial
understanding of the scientific doctrine of evolution; or
on their confidence in the inventive genius and organizing
capacity of man. Both foundations have given way.
Christian hope of a new world has nothing in common with
these exploded beliefs. The only way by which a new human
society can come into being is by the action of God. As
He created the world, so He can re-create it when men give
Him the chance by their obedience.
man obeys, God works.
should lock up in an asylum a man who attempted to make
a field of wheat by assembling thousands of stalks and leaves,
planting them out laboriously, and sticking each grain on
with gum. A waving field of corn is a miracle of life. It
is the miracle which happens when man learns to do his part
of simple obedience to the laws of growth, and ploughs the
soil and scatters the seed. The difference is as great between
man's attempt to reorganize society and God's recreation
years ago the people of Norway were facing anxious social
and moral problems, and attempting to deal with them along
the lines of legislation. The attempt was not proving notably
successful. Some time previously a woman over seventy years
old, faced, in China, the call of God to go and live in
Geneva. She obeyed. As a result the President of the Norwegian
Parliament, visiting Geneva, met the challenge to put life
under the guidance of God. Later he invited thirty men and
women to visit Norway, and bring the same message of God-guided
living. In six months the principal papers of the country
and many leaders of its life were bearing witness to a change
in the mental outlook of its people. A general strike which
had been pending did not take place. A remarkable change
in the atmosphere of Parliament was noticed at the beginning
of the next session. A celebrated journalist apologized
to Denmark for his bitter article on the fisheries dispute,
and opened the way to a new understanding between the two
nations. The President of the Authors' Club wrote a new
kind of play, which brought dramatic art into the service
of national regeneration. It drew very large audiences.
are swift and partial glimpses at the rebirth of a nation.
Politics, social life, morals, and culture can be reborn
when the creative power of God is released by the obedience
of one person.
happens. When man obeys, God works.
new civilization which will replace our fast perishing social
structure will be a miracle of God's creative power working
through men and women surrendered to His will. That is the
basis of our hope--'a city whose builder and maker is God.'
means that my relation as an individual to the world-task
becomes totally different. I am not one utterly insignificant
builder amongst countless hosts, adding one brick to the
gigantic structure of a new world-order which, at that rate,
will take inconceivably long to complete. If such were the
case, it would seem hardly worth while to bother with my
brick in a world of such immediate urgency. Rather, my obedience
to God can be like the closing of a switch which allows
the current of His power to flow through a whole circuit
of lives, blow up a mass of evil, weld together in new relationship
two lives or a community, or set in motion far-reaching
changes in men, in industry, in education, or any other
area of human activity. My part as an ordinary man in the
task of world reconstruction can thus be immediate and vital.
effect of my unreserved obedience to the guidance of God
cannot be calculated by any human arithmetic, either in
its extent or its speed. A new factor has been introduced
into the situation which completely alters it. God is in
happens when men begin to seek and obey the guidance of
God is not just an improvement in the present situation.
God is not content to settle our strikes, resolve our family
disputes, ease the tension of an international situation,
restore equilibrium, and send us back to live more peaceably
and comfortably a life on the old man-made lines. That is
the extent of many people's ambition. It is not the extent
men obey Him a revolution begins which will eventually change
the whole structure of human society. When Philemon, obeying
God, received back his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a brother,
he did not merely re-establish his domestic equilibrium
and resolve the difficulties caused for his wife by a reduced
staff: he started a social revolution. He did the thing
which struck at the very foundations of the society in which
he lived, based as it was on domestic slavery. And before
many years were gone the system was changed, and an area
of human life was reorganized.
Christian hope of a new world only differs from the other
revolutionary programmes which are being urged upon us to-day
in two respects: It goes further; and its method is entirely
different. The changes in human society which a living Christianity
will bring about will make Communism and Fascism look pale
and anemic. An employer of labour a few years ago put his
business wholly under God's direction. Recently a Labour
leader wrote of him: 'He has done more, voluntarily, for
his employees than any revolutionary Government would force
him to do.'
method of the Christian revolution is simple, unreserved
obedience to God.
head of an oil-refining firm, called to a conference on
the testing of quality in oils, felt that in order to secure
the most effective tests in the public interest he should
reveal to his trade-rivals the carefully guarded secrets
of manufacture by which he had built up his business. He
did so: and at the same moment struck a blow at the foundations
of the competitive system as we know it.
of the representatives of Great Britain at the Washington
Conference in 1922, after leaving the Conference temporarily
to carry out official duties in Canada, felt guided to return
to Washington and look into the matter of 'a clause in the
Pacific Treaty. He arrived just in time to give the necessary
help in producing the final draft of a clause which has
worked out satisfactorily ever since. He introduced into
world politics a principle which will eventually destroy
the old diplomacy, and replace international bargaining
by God's control of world affairs.
who know the industrial North will realize how the protracted
efforts to reorganize the cotton industry have been slowed
again and again by the difficulty in getting all parties
to suit their own interests and points of view. Earlier
this year in Denmark, nine textile manufacturers sought
together in quiet and prayer God's scheme of reorganization
for their industry. They began a revolution in industrial
departmental manager of a large industrial concern in the
North of England began to listen to God. A dispute between
himself and the employees in his department threatened to
end in a strike. He considered the question in the new light
of God's Plan, and listened to God's guidance. A possible
solution came to his mind. He suggested it to the men, who
welcomed it. 'We have never reached an agreement so quickly
before, in fifteen years of negotiation,' said the men's
representative, a prominent Trade Union leader. A revolution
in the relationships of employer and employee had begun.
men do such things anything can happen, because God comes
in. And the only alternative to violent revolution which
will shatter the structure of a society that fails to supply
the human needs, or respect the human rights of so many
of its members, is a Divine re-creation of society which
outdoes in thoroughness and outpaces in speed anything which
violence can achieve. Such a revolution begins in the personal
revolution of surrendering the whole of life and all its
business to God's control.
it may be asked, has Christianity so far failed in our generation
to produce this revolution in society, and has consequently
left the field open for revolution by violence?
obedience has not gone far enough, either in extent or cost.
often, men and women have come into an initial experience
of God which has liberated them from their more obvious
sins, but has left them tied still to their social environment
and to their own unrecognized sins. They have taken part
of their new life from their new Lord, but have continued
to draw heavily on the conventional ideas and standards
of their social or business world in the ordering of their
conduct. They have renounced, it may be, sins of the flesh
and the habits about which they were already uneasy in conscience,
but have continued under the domination of their fears,
their desire for security, their love of comfort, and their
selfish independence of others. They did let God over their
front doorstep, but kept Him standing in the vestibule.
revolution begins when a man is really willing for God to
displace everything but Himself from a share in the control
of life--tradition, accepted social and business standards,
preconceived ideas, human ties which hinder us, our fears,
our comfort, and everything else which has in the past dictated
our actions. A business girl secures a change in the wages
and working conditions of the rest of the staff, because
she is no longer afraid to lose her job by stating the employees'
case. A Dutch manufacturer invents a new form of incendiary
bomb, for which he is offered a large sum of money. After
meeting the Oxford Group at a house party in Switzerland,
he is guided to destroy the formula. Though in great need
of money, he obeys. Another man, retired and looking forward
to more leisured days, sees that God needs his leisure.
He sells his home, so that he may be free to go anywhere
and do anything under God's orders. These are the men and
women who start a revolution, because they are free from
all ties except the will of God.
have tried in previous chapters to sketch the outline of
that thoroughgoing Christian life surrendered, guided, shared
and used by God--to which we are called. Nothing less will
release the power of God into the life of our day. God needs
men who are liberated from every other control but His.
have hesitated at the cost. Revolutionary living means living
out to-day the principles of the new world of to-morrow.
We shall not wait for systems to be changed but shall let
God take our life and hurl it at the fortifications of selfishness
and wrong-this has always been costly. It is not simply
that it is painful and difficult to us. It may involve deeply
those we love-and there so many of us have stopped short.
The lost employment or diminishing business which means
privation for them, the call to go ahead when they do not
understand, and when God's way to the healing of a world
seems to begin with wounds at home-these are the prices
which are so hard to pay. They may have to be paid. God's
way of life again and again turns out far better than our
fears. It works in ways we never thought possible. But there
are times when the conflict between a God-guided life and
the present world means a cross, and someone broken and
bleeding on it in obedience to a crucified Lord.
the chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews which speaks with
confidence of the city whose builder and maker is God, there
is also written the record of those who 'were stoned, sawn
in two, and cut to pieces; they had to roam about in sheepskins
and goatskins, forlorn, oppressed, ill-treated.' No man,
called to fight for his country, regards it as a ground
for refusing, that his wife may be widowed, his children
orphaned, his business ruined. Nor does he consider their
pleas the deciding authority. We are contending for far
more than our country's victory.
the end our own family life is lifted to a finer level and
our children fired with a greater vision of God's purpose
when we recognize and obey a claim higher than the claim
of their comfort and safety.
are not living any longer in that comfortable world of illusion,
cushioned by prosperity, which made such talk of cost seem
remote and unreal. Revolution knocks at the door. The Cross
in our lives is the only answer to the sickle and the hammer.
is one other difference between our human attempts to reorganize
society and God's way of re-creating it.
can only reorganize as far as we can see. We have to wait
until our slow human understanding has mastered some of
the complex problems with which we are dealing. The process
is too slow, too cautious and too uncertain, in a world
where the forces of destruction can move so swiftly. We
cannot afford to postpone action until our human eyes can
see the shape of things to come. Yet there is nothing else
for us to do, if human wisdom is all we have on which to
it is not. The plan of the new world is clear in the mind
of God; and the immediate steps of our own obedience can
become clear to us, if we will listen to God. If we have
to go out `not knowing whither'--unable to see how our obedience
will work out--that is only the venture of faith which is
inherent in Christian living. We shall see the shape of
things to come as they actually take shape around the lives
of surrendered men and women.
hope is in God's action. That hope is quickened by the fact
that there is across the world to-day a growing army of
men and women who are proving in their own lives that—
man listens, God speaks;
When man obeys God works.