I recently read Vishal Mangalwadi's compelling book Truth and Transformation, which offers fresh insights into the way the Bible has influenced our culture.
Mangalwadi opens with a description of a visit to a dairy in Holland with a Dutch friend. Mangalwadi is stunned when he realizes the dairy store has no employees present and yet it does business and makes a profit. His friend takes milk from the cooler, puts money in an open basket, and counts out his own change. Mangalwadi, born and raised in India, can't help but exclaim: You could never do this in India. In India, a "customer" would take both the milk and the money.
As he thought about it, Mangalwadi realized that a culture that is not based on honesty requires higher levels of oversight--"services" that add no value to the products. In a dishonest culture, the dairy farmer would need to hire a sales clerk to protect both milk and money from consumers. And consumers would need inspectors to ensure their milk is not watered down by the farmer. The inspector, in turn, being corrupt, would take bribes, and so another inspector would be required to check up on the first inspector. None of these people add value to the milk. Mangalwadi says, "In paying for the extra workers, I simply pay for my sin: my propensity to covet and steal my neighbor's milk and money. The high price of sin makes it difficult for me to buy ice cream; that is to say the price of sin prevents me from patronizing genuine economic activity."
Mangalwadi says that moral teaching in the West came from religious reformers like Martin Luther, John Knox and John Amos Comenius who universalized education to civilize generations of Europeans. They based education on Judeo-Christian ideas such as "God is holy; He has given us moral laws such as the Ten Commandments; obedience to God's Word is the source of good life; disobedience to God's moral law is sin that does not go unpunished; and sinners can repent and receive forgiveness."
According to Mangalwadi, the moral teachings of the Bible became the intellectual foundation and force that produced moral integrity, economic prosperity, and political freedom in the West. It is the reason that even non-believers in the West have, at least until recently, sought to live moral lives. Mangalwadi claims modern educators have rejected this Biblical framework. Consequently, he says, the West is threatening to follow India into corruption.
Can we change the trajectory of our society?
Mangalwadi, even in the title of his book, argues that the apparent future of our society is not inevitable. There is reason for hope. Societies can change. It happened beginning about 500 years ago in the West. We saw a moral transformation in English society under the Wesley brothers just over 200 years ago. We can see similar transformations again.
In Genesis, God tells Abraham that He is going to destroy two wicked cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham asks God, "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
The Lord replies, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
Abraham then asks if God will destroy the city for 45, then 40, then 30, then 20 righteous people. In each instance God affirms that He will not destroy the city for the sake of the righteous.
Then [Abraham] said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?"
God answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
Just as God was willing to allow a wicked city to remain because of merely ten righteous people, I pray that we may be among the (few) righteous people who will change the course and destiny of our nation and the world.
What about nations without a Biblical heritage?
If, as Mangalwadi proposes in his book, nations thrive when the Bible is available and respected (and I think he is right), how do we help nations or peoples who have never had a single word of the Scripture in their language? People without a single word of the Bible have never heard of John 3:16, Jude 24 or your favorite verse. As believers, we can send translators to bring the Word of Life to people who need it to transform themselves and their societies. And it is with that thought in mind that I would like to call your attention to...
An opportunity and an invitation—the OneVerse Project
Just yesterday, I sent out a letter to almost 50,000 current and recent Sonlight customers. In it, I ask the recipients to join John and me in collecting loose change to bring transformation to the more than one million Meetto people of Mozambique in southeast Africa.
The Meettos are part of the larger Macua (Makua) ethnic group of about five million. While the Makua language has the Bible, the Meetto speakers don't understand it well.
We now have the opportunity to help provide the Meetos with Scripture in their heart language. OneVerse, a very successful program of the Seed Company (a daughter organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators), will work with native Meetto speakers to translate the New Testament into their language. But they need our support to achieve this enormous goal. Just $26 covers the cost of translating one verse of the New Testament (and since John and I are matching your contributions, every $13 you give will become $26).
I believe as parents we have a golden opportunity to impact the hearts and minds of our children. And I believe that as we challenge our children to give sacrificially, we can help align their hearts to the things that matter to God.
I pray this opportunity to collect loose change from September to early December will grip your heart and the hearts of your children. And may our partnership bring to pass an entire New Testament to people who for multiple millennia have not heard a single word of the Good News in their language. May we as Sonlighters impact our world in this very practical way!
To join the Sonlight/OneVerse project and help reach the Meetto people with Christ's transforming love and Word, register at www.oneverse.org/sonlight by September 17. Just like Mission India did last year, OneVerse will provide lessons and activities that can help your children learn about and connect with the people group they're serving. I'm eager to see what God does through the generous hearts of the Sonlight community this year!