No leader has ever inspired mankind to a greater extent than the baby born in Bethlehem, the one who divided history. No other personality in the world has left such a mark on such a large number of fields as Jesus did. And the legacy He left in terms of human rights (especially women’s rights), education, attitudes towards children, humility, and forgiveness is immeasurable.
Jesus’s message was so powerful that it affected every inch of the world. In the 2000 years since then, both kings and believers have followed Him because of the transforming power of His words.
The first great impact on history took place right at His birth, which marked an event so important that it divided history before and after Jesus. Moreover, without Him being born, the religion that bears His name—which is today the most widespread religion in the world and has the greatest number of believers—would not exist.
The way of life Jesus promoted, through His message of mercy and compassion, has been the primary contributing factor for the emergence of numerous hospitals, charities, and educational institutions. For example, nurse Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern patient care services, was motivated by the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’s approach towards people considered unclean (even lepers), and their healing on every occasion, led to the emergence of modern hospitals, many of which have maintained the tradition of Christian help through the names of the saints they bear.
The second major impact that the birth of Jesus has had on the world is personal character development, which was the great theme of the Renaissance. The concept and name of this period (Rinascimento) entered the vocabulary of European civilization mainly due to the essence of the message of Jesus Christ.
The desire for knowledge and study led to the emergence of universities, among them the most prestigious and oldest in Europe, such as Cambridge and Oxford. These were based on Christian biblical principles, especially the idea that mankind is God’s creation and must be educated and have an image and conduct appropriate to this privileged status.
The third impact of Jesus’s message can be seen in the constitutions of the Western world, but also in the civil codes and criminal procedures, which are based on the Ten Commandments (the condemnation of blasphemy, theft, false statements, and murder are only some of the acts prohibited by the laws of many of the world’s states), and the right to equality. That is why Christianity was the ingredient that formed the basis of modern democracy.
In terms of the right to equality, Jesus promoted it among the most disadvantaged social groups: women (who before Jesus had no rights), the poor, and children.
At the time, children and women did not count and were often sold as slaves. Jesus’s attitude encouraged their protection, which led to the creation of orphanages and children’s homes. This attitude is also the subject of a book by the Norwegian theologian O.M. Bakke, who also conducted a study on the impact of Jesus’s attitude towards children. The book is called “When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity“.
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Historically, the British philanthropist William Wilberforce contributed to the abolition of slavery as a result of his deeply religious convictions, which he promoted in the context of 19th-century politics. Also in the 19th century, in the United Kingdom, Lord Shaftesbury became a social reformer and introduced regulations in Parliament on abuses against employees, whether men, women, or children. He fought to improve working conditions, by limiting working hours and improving wages.
The fourth impact of Jesus’s message is on our relationships with our peers, by practising humility and forgiveness. The predominant attitudes from the bloody period of ancient times were kindness towards friends and revenge on enemies. The message from the Galilean was just the opposite. He urged the love of enemies, a principle that later inspired many writers.
Moreover, up until Jesus, humility was not one of the qualities that was admired or appreciated. The Roman statesman Cicero himself wrote that rank must be maintained—that is, the pride of descent. But after the death and crucifixion of Jesus, humility became a quality desired by Christians who wanted to live like their Saviour.