A lever and a place to stand

Third century mathematician, Archimedes, coined the phrase, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I’ll move the world.”  At the time he was talking about the power of a tool that uses force and a fulcrum to displace mass in order to create momentum and movement for a fixed object.

But I think he also meant it to stand for a whole lot more.

For instance, the claim that we can actually move the world is the claim we make when we devote our lives to Christ.  We emerge from the baptismal waters ready to join the cause of Christ; ready to offer grace, love, and forgiveness to a world trapped in sin, despair and regret.  It’s like a billboard shouting to the world, “I’m ready to help move you a few degrees closer to God.”  But in order to make this happen there are two key ingredients needed – a lever and a place to stand.

The lever is the skill sets you acquire and the spiritual gifts God grants, and it looks different for all of us.  Some people hold the levers of love, forgiveness, and grace.  Others hold the levers of restorative justice, global concern, and environmental sustainability.  There are even those who use mental health initiatives, contemplative prayer, and homiletical masterpieces.  The levers look different because we’re all uniquely and wonderfully made to function as the body of Christ.

The places we stand are important too.  There is so much need in this world (i.e. poverty, AIDs, depression, addiction, war, homelessness, mental health, disease).  There is so much pain too (i.e. resentment, anger, jealousy, hate, bitterness).  God needs us to stand against these evils.  God needs us to partner in the ongoing creation of the world.  But we must choose wisely when we offer our gifts to the world, for every attempt to move the world literally changes it – for the better or for the worse.

So stand somewhere good, somewhere meaningful, somewhere close together.

Archimedes may have been referring to fulcrums and stationary objects, but I think somewhere in his soul he was thinking of Christians too.

Realizing the levers God gives and finding a place to use them may just be the most important journey of our lives.  Partnering with others as we attempt to move the world closer to God is one of the things Christianity is about.  May we be so willing, be so open, and be so vulnerable to discover what and where these levers and places may be!

Barrett Owen

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About the Author
Barrett Owen is the associate director of admissions at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and pastor of National Heights Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. He blogs weekly at Liminality: Exploring the holy, in-between spaces.

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  • Lary Arnett

    I just did a Google search on  “how can I become closer to God.” I found your article.   Your words are exactly what I needed to hear and they were there for me exactly when I needed to hear them.  Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbarrettowen Barrett Owen

    Thanks Lary!  And you are more than welcome.  Godspeed.