Can we make a difference?

Author: Tim Chester, The Crowded House.


Can we make a difference? If I had a pound for every time I have heard someone tell us that we can make a difference I think I could personally end world poverty. I have a copy of a cartoon in which someone says, ‘What difference can one person make?’ In the next frame two or three more speech bubbles have appeared asking the same question. In the final frame there are a plethora of similar speech bubbles which have sprung up across the world. The implication is clear: together we can make a difference. And I agree. But I want to be cautious.
I believe that by the grace of God (and only by the grace of God) I can make a difference in the lives of people I know. I believe my church can make a difference in the life of the community in which it is situated. I believe that the concerted effort of Christians can impact political and business decisions. I was part of the Jubilee 2000 campaign in its earliest days. At that point, and I hope they will forgive me for saying this, it consisted of a bunch of eccentrics dreaming impossible dreams. Four years later I shed a few tears when I was part of 50,000 people on a sunny day in London sending a petition with 20 million signatures to world leaders who eventually agreed to cancel $100 billion of Third World debt.1 But still I am more cautious about what all this might add up to. For many the rhetoric is that of eradicating poverty. More than one organization has that as a stated goal. But we will not eradicate poverty from history. History is in a state of constant flux. Sometimes we see increased social justice and moral advance – often through the actions of God’s people. But in other places we see moral decline and growing inequality. The international community has agreed a series of ‘millennium development goals’, the headline target of which is to halve the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. These targets have been enthusiastically endorsed by the British Government and promoted by development agencies. And if they galvanize action for the poor then they will have proved their worth. Whether they are realistic time will tell, but I confess to be sceptical.

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