Every time an election year comes along, the same refrain is typically heard echoing along the halls of America’s schools, offices, and homes.
“One vote won’t make a difference.”
“One person can’t possibly change anything.”
One can hear an equal number of people refuting these statements. It seems people are locked in an eternal struggle over the impact one single person can have on something bigger than themself.
Let’s take a trip back in time. I would like you to meet one man who single handedly changed the face of the modern world. Meet Gavrilo Princip.
I know what you must be thinking. “Who was Gavrilo Princip?” His is not a household name. In fact, I would imagine that most people have no idea who he was. Most people wouldn’t know that he was responsible for two wars and the deaths of millions of innocent people.
Gavrilo Princip was born in July, 1894, to parents so poor they had to send him to live with his older brother in modern-day Croatia. In that time, Croatia was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Gavrilo was a subject of Emperor Franz Joseph I. Gavrilo, along with many other Yugoslavs, was angry with the Austro-Hungarian government and wanted to form an independent Yugoslavia. He was quoted as saying, “I am a Yugoslav nationalist, aiming for the unification of all Yugoslavs, and I do not care what form of state, but it must be free from Austria.”
In 1914, Gavrilo hatched a daring plan. He would assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the younger brother and heir to the Emperor himself! He was living in Serbia at the time, and saw his opportunity when the Archduke was to visit Sarajevo. Thanks to a wrong turn by the Archduke’s driver, Gavrilo Princip had a clear shot from only half a meter away. The Archduke died the next day.
This so infuriated the Austrians that they declared war on Serbia within a few weeks. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, along with their German allies, invaded Serbia. The Russian Empire was quick to jump to the defense of their Slavic brethren, and Germany used this as an excuse to invade Belgium and France. England joined the war to defend their French and Belgian allies. World War I had begun.
This was bad enough, but after Germany lost World War I, the Allied Powers demanded stiff penalties on the German people. This resulted in rampant hyperinflation (50 Billion Mark postage stamps were common). Germany became so downtrodden they chose a radical new leader in their next election: Adolf Hitler. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gavrilo Princip used his hatred of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as an excuse for murder. The result: over 35 million dead in World War I and over 60 million dead in World War II. Hate is a powerful and dangerous emotion. Gavrilo Princip, one man, certainly made a difference.
Imagine, though, the difference that could be made if, instead of hate, one acted out of love! Imagine what one could do if the death that resulted from their actions was one’s own, in sacrifice, instead of their enemy?
Like Gavrilo Princip, Jesus was born in a country under occupation. The region of Judea was a part of the Roman Empire, and many of His countrymen were upset and angry with the Roman government. Some sects of the Jews, such as the sicarii, were a group of assassins devoted to expelling the Romans from their lands.
Despite the political turmoil, Jesus’ first and only thought was of love. He could have, with a thought, eliminated the Roman Emperor and taken up the throne Himself – in fact, many Jews wanted him to do this. However, Jesus’ love for His people overrode any such thoughts. Jesus mentions this many times, but one verse has always stuck out to me as a perfect example His love: “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world.” (John 12:47). In this verse, Jesus is saying that if you don’t agree, that’s your decision. He will not judge you, that’s not His job; He only came to save us and offer you the Truth.
Many Jews believed in Jesus, but many did not believe. They saw Jesus as a threat to their way of life, and plotted to kill Him. Jesus, of course, knew all of this but intentionally allowed them to carry out their plan. Jesus’ original intent was to sacrifice Himself for the good of all mankind. He took the sins of the world on His shoulders and died so we wouldn’t have to.
Of course, Jesus wasn’t dead for long. He rose from the dead three days later, exemplifying the power God has over death and Satan. Jesus made a difference.
Consider the contrast between Gavrilo Princip and Jesus. Gavrilo Princip used hate as his fuel to make a difference. As a result, millions of people died horrible deaths. Jesus, on the other hand, used love as His fuel, and an uncountable number of people now have the opportunity to have eternal life in God the Father.
You, one person, have the ability to make a difference, too. Try to live your life filled with love, instead of hate; and you will make differences in the world that you cannot imagine.