“Dear Sir,This story is usually told as a punch line, an end to conversation. But today, Let’s see it as a starting point. Because once Chesterton is taken to heart, there is an awful lot still to say.
Yours, G.K. Chesterton”
First of all, notice that the problem is not “out there.” The world’s evils, terrors, and pain are not because of external circumstances, and especially not because of other people. This may be our first and most constant thought, but it is a lie.
We see this clearly when somebody is blaming us for their problems. We can even see it, sometimes, when we are a neutral observer watching the blame-game happening between two friends. But we almost never see the truth of Chesterton’s quip while we are seeking the reasons for our own misfortune. It’s time to start seeing.
Second, notice that the problem is not just in me, but me. “I am,” the problem with the world. If the problem were only something inside of me, I could take some medicine, or do something to fix it. But if the problem is me, myself, the solution requires somebody other than me.
So, while the first thing is to stop seeing the problem outside of yourself, the second thing is to start seeing the solution outside of yourself. Sin is the problem, and I cannot fix it. So I should abandon that project.
The problem with me is that I am a sinner. The solution is that Jesus takes away the sin of the world. Sin is the problem, and Jesus can fix it. So I should bring the problem to Him.
This is the whole point of Lent. Rather, it is the whole focus of the Christian life. When John the Baptist came preaching repentance, it was not some new self-discipline which would finally achieve salvation. “Repent,” means: turn away from yourself and your own self-help projects, and to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Repentance is the daily exercise of taking serious the fact that “I am the problem with the world today.” Repentance takes a sober look at my own contribution to the mess we are in. Repentance looks at the evils I do and says, “I don’t want to do that anymore.” Repentance looks at who I am and says, “I don’t want to be that anymore.”
But repentance doesn’t stop there. It is neither an exercise in self-loathing, nor an attempt to boot-strap yourself out of the hole. In repentance, we uncover these ugly realities because we want to bring them to Jesus. We know that what we cannot change, Jesus can. We know that the unforgivable can, indeed, be forgiven.
Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross earned forgiveness for the whole world – not just the best of us, or the chosen few. And Jesus rose from the grave to give out that forgiveness freely in His Church. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I AM in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).
When and where your crucified and risen Creator forgives yours sins, you are truly forgiven, repaired, and restored. And where the one who is wrong with the world is fixed, the world is fixed with you.