One of the hallmarks of the spread of biblical Christianity is its life and society transforming powers. Everything changes when a vibrant Christian faith is on the scene. The whole world knows when Christians are at work, and that has been the story of Christianity for the past 2000 years.
Everywhere it went, the Christian faith has been a force for good. Individual lives are radically changed, as are entire societies. The story of the growth and spread of the early church is a clear example of this. Elsewhere I have documented how early Christianity changed the world around it.
Radical social implications of the gospel have been there from day one. In the dark, pagan days after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the light of the gospel resulted in a complete turnaround of society. The condition of women and children, the poor, slaves, and other marginalised groups all improved remarkably under the rise of Christianity.
As but one important source on this, consider Rodney Stark’s 1996 volume, The Rise of Christianity. There he documents how Christian compassion and social concern saw the faith grow rapidly, and change the world it found itself in.
Looking after the sick and needy, and treating victims of epidemics and pestilence, while the pagans fled, resulted in the conversion of many. The respect for the sanctity of life, and the rejection of common practices like abortion and infanticide also were noteworthy.
Infant abandonment, which was widespread back then, was another action radically turned around by the new faith. Christians looked after these abandoned babies, and changed the culture from a culture of death to a culture of life. Thus Christianity really did create Western civilisation, taking the world out of a bloody and uncaring pagan past.
But now of course we have largely rejected this Christian heritage, and are entering again into a new paganism. Thus we see an increase in many of the social ills that plagued the world 2,000 years ago. Abandoning newborns is just one indication of this.
Most of you would have seen the moving story coming from China of a newborn baby cut free from a pipe it was trapped in. One news report describes it this way: “The newborn baby who was rescued by Chinese firefighters from a sewer pipe below a squat toilet suffered ‘severe bruising’ but is in a ‘stable condition’ in hospital.
“A tenant heard the baby’s sounds in the public restroom of a residential building in Zhejiang province in eastern China on Saturday and notified authorities, according to the state-run news site Zhejiang News. A video of the two-hour rescue that followed was broadcast widely on Chinese news programs and websites late on Monday and Tuesday.
“The child — named Baby No. 59 from the number of his hospital incubator — was reported safe in a nearby hospital, and news of the rescue prompted an outpouring from strangers who came to the hospital with nappies, baby clothes, powdered milk and offers to adopt the child. He is now healthy enough to leave the hospital, which has been paying his medical bills and accepting donations of clothes, baby formula and other gifts.”
As the story says, “Cases of abandoned babies are common in China, with young mothers and strict family planning rules often blamed.” But, you rightly object, this is China, not the West. Yes quite so, but South Korea is now very much a part of the West in so many ways, yet there – as in other Western nations – we are seeing a return of this old problem.
It is getting to be so bad there that churches are setting up “drop boxes” for abandoned and unwanted babies. Consider this recent story of what one pastor there is doing: “Lee Jong-rak is a Korean pastor in South Korea. A simple man with a huge purpose, Pastor Jong-rak saw a devastating problem. He thought of a way he could change it, and he became a prophetic voice to his society. His story is a story of faith. A story of hope. A story of love. And when you hear this heroic tale, you just may never be the same.
“Lee Jong-rak is the creator of the Baby Box. His Baby Box is the first and only box in Korea that is for collecting abandoned babies who are physically or mentally handicapped or are just unwanted by their mothers. Hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned on the side of the street in South Korea every year. Jong-rak knew he needed to set up a way to save the lives of these precious babies. He built a drop box on the side of his home with a humble sign reading, ‘Place to leave babies.’
“The inside of the box contains a thick towel covering the bottom, and lights and heating to keep the baby comfortable. A bell rings when someone puts a baby in the box, then Jong-rak, his wife, or staff associates come to immediately move the baby inside. His aim was to provide a life-giving alternative for desperate mothers in his city of Seoul. He even admits that he didn’t really expect that babies would come in– He was mistaken. The babies came. In the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, some with notes, some without a word, and only a very few mothers actually spoke to him face-to-face.”
The article concludes, “Korea is not the only place that deals with child abandonment. Globally, millions of children die from abandonment. It takes different forms from country to country. In the United States, abortion serves our abandonment purposes and they call it a ‘woman’s choice.’
“Our nation is still struggling to see that these babies are human beings, too. They deserve to live just like any other human being. With incredible men and women like Pastor Lee Jong-rak, this world is seeing how life can be for these babies when we take them in; when we become a voice for the ones that cannot speak up for themselves. They are loved, they are cherished, and they are worthy just the way they are.”
Just as in the first centuries of the church when it was the growing Christian population that looked after the very real needs of the masses, so too today. And in the case of baby abandonment, Christians are leading the way in doing the rescues.
Who says Christianity has no positive impact on the world?