Who is this man Jesus? Love him or hate him, he cannot simply be ignored. Napoleon wrote 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 would die for Him. – Napoleon
The dystopian author H. G. Wells said,
I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history. – H. G. Wells
Even Albert Einstein was moved by Jesus:
As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene….No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. –Albert Einstein
It is indeed an overwhelming challenge for any intellectually honest person to deny the significant impact Jesus has made on the world. In part one of this article, we looked at four often overlooked ways that Jesus changed the world. In this installment we will consider four more.
Care for the Sick
The compassion of Jesus’ healing ministry had a profound effect on the Ancient world that largely followed the Greek philosophy that the physical body – and any material object for that matter – was of no real value. Motivated by their understanding that we are made in the image and likeness of God, Christians started institutions for lepers which where the forerunners of modern hospitals.
At the church Council of Nyssa a decree was issued commanding that anywhere a Cathedral was built, a hospice must be established as well to care for the sick and poor. Christians created the first voluntary charitable institutions and the field of medicine flourished. Why not, after all one of Jesus’ most famous followers was himself a physician.
Great Scientific Breakthroughs
It may come as a surprise to many that a large number of scientific breakthroughs have come through the diligent labor of Christians who desired to learn more about their Creator by studying His creation. Famous Christian Scientists include: Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of Newtonian Physics and the creator of Calculus; Rene’ Descartes, founder of modern rationalism; Michael Faraday, the father of Electromagnetic Theory; Louis Pasteur, Father of Microbiology; Sir Francis Bacon, Creator of the Scientific Method and many many more. Even our understanding of Genetics, Quantum Physics and the Big Bang Theory have all been greatly influenced by followers of Christ.
The Preciousness of Children
In the ancient world, children were often sacrificed to idols or left out in the elements to die of exposure. This was especially true of female babies who were considered less valuable than their male counterparts. Other children were often sold into slavery as a way to make money on the one hand, and a means to obtain cheap labor on the other.
When the Disciples rebuked some children and told them to leave the teacher alone, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) Jesus’ passion for children brought a complete ideological shift to the world as Christianity spread. Christians sought out abandoned children and adopted them; they began to actively protest abandonment and abortion. The shift was so significant that one Norwegian scholar entitled his study of the subject, “When Children Became People: the Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.”
The Equality of All
The parity of women with men was not the only societal change that Jesus fostered. Slaves during the first century were allowed to worship in church along with everyone else. It has been reported that slave owners touched by God would lay aside the whip and instead wash their slave’s feet. Many Christian masters set aside their legal rights and elevated their slaves to freedom.
The swing was so dramatic that some Bishops were instructed to avoid interrupting a service to welcome the wealthy, but to “sit on the floor” to welcome the poor. Imagine the great disruption and confusion this caused in a culture where slaves had always been treated as objects of contempt. The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Author Thomas Cahill wrote that this was the first statement of egalitarianism in human literature.
The Elevation of Women, the Teaching of Radical Forgiveness, Education for All, Public Access to Great Works of Art, Care for the Sick, Great Scientific Breakthroughs, The Preciousness of Children and the Equality of All are just of few of the often less thought of ways that the birth of Jesus changed the world. So this Christmas, I encourage you to not only consider the future rewards that Christmas promises but to also reflect on – and give thanks that your life is what it is today because of a baby in a manger who became Savior, Redeemer and Friend.