Center of the World

United States on map of the world.

Most maps of the world that you see in the United States look something like the map shown above, with the US at the nominal center of the map. You might get the impression that the US is in some way the center of the world, and maybe some of us feel that way. More likely, putting the US on the middle of the page makes sense if you live in the US and would like to know where other countries are with respect to your location. There may be other reasons for putting the US in the center of the map; can you think of any?

Germany on map of the world.

This map of the world locates Germany near the center of the map. The customer is always right, so they say, and this map provides the same kind of location information for German citizens as the first map does for people in the US. Or maybe it is a matter of national pride, if you don’t like the utilitarian explanation.

Brazil on map of the world.

This map of the world follows a similar approach as the previous two, but with a twist. Notice how the map highlights Brazil, but does not locate it at the center of the map. Perhaps this reflects Brazil’s attention to trade to the north and east, across the Atlantic Ocean, with relatively little concern for trans-Pacific trade. Perhaps being at the center of the map is, for some reason, not very important to map customers in Brazil. Or maybe there is some other explanation?

Chinese map of the world.

This relatively recent (2014) official Chinese government map of the world has its own unique approach. China sits near the middle of the map, but two sets of dashed lines circle areas of particular interest to China. The first circles the South China Sea while the second covers most of the North Pacific Ocean. Perhaps this approach takes a direction different from the geographic humility suggested by the map highlighting Brazil.

Utilitarian explanations and geopolitical aspirations aside, it is not much of a stretch to think that many countries feel it right and proper to be at the center of their maps. Their country is their homeland, and their world centers around them in a figurative if not literal sense. 

Turning from countries to people, this “center of the world” mindset may remind us of our political leaders, who often seem to believe that their world centers around them. The trouble starts when they believe that the rest of the world, our world, centers around them, too. Interestingly, regardless of whether they are left wing, right wing, or centrist in their political beliefs, they still think and claim that they are in the center of all that is good, proper, and reasonable. Sometimes they think they are the center. Anyone who disagrees is on the fringe and branded as extremist, radical, and possibly even falling off the edge of the political map.

Loudly or quietly, we hear this “I am the center” perspective in the news media, in our communities, and among our friends and neighbors. Maybe our friends hear it from us, too. It permeates US politics, and seeps into other areas of life. Why is it so pervasive? Proverbs 21:2 notes, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes…” We are very good at self-interest, but our situation is worse than that. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Looking at discord all around, it is clear that we need help, but we can’t help ourselves. The leopard can’t change his spots, and we can’t fix our self-centeredness. However, God has good news for us in Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-20 says, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

By God’s love, the fix for our self-centeredness is Jesus, the center of all things.

One thought on “Center of the World

  1. A few decades ago, I stayed at a hotel in Anchorage that had quite a few guests from Australia. They had given the hotel a world map on which south was upward. If you want a different perspective, a map like that will do it.


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