What do Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow, New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have in common? There are three answers to the question. First, they are all listed in Time‘s new “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Second, the Religious News Service describes all four as “religious leaders.” Cardinal Dolan makes obvious sense, as does Khamenei. But who a year ago would have listed Denver’s backup quarterback and New York’s backup point guard as global “religious leaders”?
Third, all four are “religious leaders” even though most of us have never seen them lead a religious service. Most outside the Catholic church have never heard Cardinal Dolan preach; few outside the Muslim world have heard Khamenei’s voice. Tebow and Lin are better known for their athletic success than any sermonic brilliance they might possess. But all four are “religious leaders” in that their religious beliefs have influenced culture in significant ways.
Jesus wants ours to do the same.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a writer, artist, biologist and physicist, widely considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. He observed, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.” Mahatma Gandhi, the “father of the Indian nation,” would have agreed: “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.”
No religious leader in history wanted his followers to change their culture more than Jesus of Nazareth. He called his disciples the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14); both metaphors require us to contact that which we are to change. He sent his disciples out into the Jewish community (Matthew 10:6), then commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). His Spirit challenged Peter to abandon his racial prejudice in sharing the gospel with Cornelius and the Gentile world (Acts 10). He sent Paul across Asia, then across Europe. His New Testament was written in “Koine” Greek, the “common” language of the Western world.
From then to now, God has inspired some of the greatest personalities in history to continue his Kingdom engagement with their culture. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, the language of his day; Wycliffe and Tyndale did the same for ours. Charles Fuller made God’s word available through radio, then Billy Graham did the same through television.
Now God is calling you to use your influence for his Kingdom. You may not make Time‘s list of influential people, but your faithfulness will bear fruit in heaven for eternity. How will your gifts, resources, and opportunities help someone make Jesus their King today?