“What’s wrong with the world today?” That was the question my Christian Union once posed to those on campus during Mission Week. The answers given were unsurprising, if not telling. They blamed inaccessible education, unequal rights, moral degradation, social injustice, poverty . . . . The list went on. If only we worked these things out together as a society, they said, then we could build a utopia for ourselves—perhaps even a whole new world.
It’s certainly tempting to think that way. I’ve often found myself thinking that if we fixed a particular societal issue, then all our other problems would disappear. But the story of Noah has challenged me to think otherwise. The harsh reality is that we can’t fix the broken world by ourselves, and no matter what we do, the world will always remain a mess.
After the flood, Noah seemed like a promising start. It was the kind of beginning social activists would dream of—a new world where evil had been destroyed (Gen. 6:11-13), populated by the most God-fearing, righteous man (Gen. 6:9) and his family. Even better, they were blessed by God, and made a covenant with him (Gen 9:1-17). Surely things would be better in this new world led by Noah. And yet, it didn’t take long for the cracks to show. Shockingly, despite only leaving behind the most righteous family on earth, God’s assessment of humanity did not change (Gen. 8:21 cf. Gen. 6:5), and sure enough, Noah and Ham sinned soon after (Gen. 9:20-27). Generations later, the world was again ready to rebel against God (Gen. 11:1-9).
It is a sobering reminder that the world’s fundamental problem is not societal, but theological. Sin is our biggest problem. It is so deeply ingrained that even global judgment and mass destruction cannot wipe it away from our hearts. That’s why the world needs a far more radical solution than a global flood. That’s why the world needs the Son of God to die on the cross for our sins.
“What’s wrong with the world today?” Well-known author G.K. Chesterton’s answer was simple: “Dear Sir, I am.” He’s right. We are the problem. That’s why the world needs Jesus.