When you were a little kid learning about literature, fiction is what you called books with stories that were not real while nonfiction is what you called the books that have stories that are real. As you get older though, you begin to learn that sometimes those books that you thought were simply fantasy contain valuable pieces of truth that relate to our world as well.
I have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy several times, but a few weeks ago, I was listening to the audiobook of The Fellowship of the Ring, and I came across a passage I had never thought about before. For context, this comes soon after the Fellowship has departed from Rivendell, but they have not quite gotten to Moria at this point.
“‘To the end of the journey – in the end,’ said Gandalf. ‘We cannot look too far ahead. Let us be glad that the first stage is safely over. I think we will rest here, not only today but tonight as well. There is a wholesome air about Hollin. Much evil must befall a country before it wholly forgets the Elves, if once they dwelt there.’
‘That is true,’ said Legolas. ‘But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them. Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.’”
In the entire story, the elves play an important role. They are immortal unless they die in battle. They are noble and are not typically given to the types of evil that seem to befall dwarves or men. Even hobbits who are generally innocent can clearly have some undesirable characters such as the Sackville-Bagginses, but the elves do not seem to have this type of potentially evil disposition. In fact, even their three rings of power were not corrupted by Sauron like all of the other rings were.
Of all the forces of good in Middle Earth, elves are the most pure without a doubt. That elves that lived in Hollin were apparently of a particularly high quality, even exceptional among their already exceptional race.
They were so pure in fact that Gandalf says that much it takes a great deal of evil for even the air to forget about the elves. Legolas speaks about the fact that even the rocks that had presumably been there in the time of the elves still cry out in sorrow because the elves are no longer there. The land misses that sense of goodness and purity.
This got me thinking about our own testimony as Christians. Would people miss us if we were not here? Are we making a difference in the world around us? I’m not talking about works based salvation, but I’m talking about the fruit that ought to be evident in the life of a Christian. This fruit ought to bring blessings to all those around us.
Despite the dark spots in the history of the church which I alluded to on Wednesday and are not representative of the teaching of Jesus Christ whatsoever, I am convinced that the church has done more for the good of the entire world than any other institution in the history of the world. Rather than rewrite an entire article, you should check out this resource from Faith Facts that provides a brief overview of the many ways that Christianity has changed the world for the better. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it does point to several important contributions that Christians have made for the good of humanity over the years.
If that is true, then it ought to follow that just like the elves, the world should miss Christians if they were not there.
Historically, that is certainly true. Without the intervention of Christians who were acting on their faith, the slave trade might not have ended in Great Britain or the gladiator fights might not have ended in the Roman Empire. Many colleges and universities such as Harvard and Yale might not have ever come into being if Christians had not been motivated to learn about the world and establish institutes of higher education. In fact, what have been established as “unalienable rights” in our United States governmental system might never have been established as personal rights without a worldview that espoused the belief that people are endowed by their Creator with these rights.
However, that is all historical information. It is clear that Christianity has impacted the world for many good causes. The world would be a different place without the leaders of our faith who have gone before. Even if you do not agree with everything that Christians believe, the impact of Christianity on the world has been unmatched.
The challenge is now for you and me. When we move on from anything we do, is our impact going to be remembered? We need to remember that we shouldn’t try to leave a legacy for our own personal glory, but if people can see Jesus Christ through us and are impacted by that even when we move on, then maybe we have been like the elves. Maybe we have done our job.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: One Volume (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), 283-284, Kindle Edition.