I think it is safe to say that wanting the world to be a better place would be common sentiment the world over. In many places it is even a popular sentiment. And we see great efforts from many quarters of society to achieve this goal, from breast cancer awareness, to clean water initiatives, to homeless shelters, to aids research and education, to disaster relief, to famine relief, to refugee aid, to save the whales, to anti-abortion measures, to racism awareness, to anti-poverty campaigns, to enviromental concerns, to soil conservation, to water conservation, to energy conservation, to operation Christmas child, to no child left behind, to school drop-out initiatives, to Unicef, to UN peace keeping, to Mid-East diplomacy, to anti-terrorist measures, to social justice concerns, to mercy ministries, to the Salvation Army, to food banks, to welfare, to...whew, the list goes on and on.
All of us, who inhabit this world, want it to be a cleaner, safer, nicer, peaceful, friendly, beautiful, and even loving place to live. But, alas, it is a sentiment doomed to failure, and a desire that will never come to fruition. Why, you might ask? Because the root issue of all of the problems in this world, sin, is ignored by the world; and all the attempts that those in the world make to make the world a better place to live, treat the symptoms, not the disease.
Man is a slave to sin, he is blinded by his sin, he is deceived in his sin, he loves his sin, he is an inventor of sin, he is an encourager of sin, he flaunts his sin, he feeds his sin, he exalts his sin, he is incapable of not sinning, he excuses his sin, he justifies his sin, he promotes sin, he uses sin to accomplish his purposes, he won't give up his sin, he cherishes his sin, he worships his sin, he speaks sin, he thinks sin, he acts sin; in other words he is thoroughly permeated and dominated by sin. He is born in sin, and sin is inescapable.
The earth is cursed because of sin. All creation groans because of sin. The world and all that is in it is passing away because of sin. Man is condemned because of sin. Since man rules over the world and sin rules over man, therefore sin is the ruling and guiding force in this world.
Enter the church, the greatest sin-fighting agent in the world; and not the corporate or organized church, but the church as the body of Christ, the church as represented by each individual Christian as they live out the life of Christ in their daily affairs. Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are salt and light. Salt stops the corruption of sin in its tracks (Matthew 5:13), light exposes sin and causes it to flee (John 3:18-21, Ephesians 5:8-13). In addition to this, through the church the gospel is proclaimed; and it is the gospel, the living Word of the living God, that brings cleansing to sinful man (John 13:8-10, John 15:3, Ephesians 5:25-27).
The church has been given the mandate to go into all the world and make disciples, and the church does that by preaching and sharing the gospel, the Word of God. It is the gospel that cleanses man from sin, it is the Word of God that keeps man's way pure, and keeps him from sinning (Psalm 119:9, 11). True believers do not practice sin, but practice holiness (I John 3:7-10), and as they do they are salt and light in the world. It is the gospel that deals with the sin that dominates and controls man; first by cleansing him from sin and freeing him from the bondage to sin, and then by empowering him to have victory over ongoing sin as he is obedient to the Word of God.
So, what is the most important thing the church must do to make the world a better place? What is its mandate from its head, the Lord Jesus Christ? It is to preach, teach, and live the gospel. So as we, the living body of the living Lord, go about our daily affairs, sharing the gospel and living the gospel, the world is made a better place, literally one Christian at a time. But if all of God's people, those that are truly His, would make this their focus; we would see the world become a better place, not a perfect place...that is yet to come (Revelation 21-22). So as we minister to those around us, our neighbor, let us make their world a better place by introducing them to the One who has overcome the world and all of its sin, the Lord Jesus Christ.