Why Reading the Bible is Turning Millennials Away from the Church

“Almost every major branch of Christianity in the United States has lost a significant number of members, Pew found, mainly because millennials are leaving the fold. More than one-third of millennials now say they are unaffiliated with any faith, up 10 percentage points since 2007.”

Let’s talk about this.

I grew up in the Church. Both my maternal and paternal grandpas are pastors. My parents served in youth ministry my entire life and are now missionaries in Colombia. I grew up in RA’s, Awana, VBS, Sunday school, homeless ministries, church pews, youth group, small groups, men’s breakfasts, youth retreats, and bible studies. You name a church thing and I probably participated in it at some point. I’m a Millennial Christian. I was raised in a certain culture and am who I am today because of it. A ton of people were raised similarly, but are leaving the Church and the faith and the Savior that I hold so dear. A lot of you older Christians are very confused by this. You try desperately to make youth group deeper, to get us in Scripture more, to get us to go to Bible schools and study theology and pursue God. What many of you don’t realize is that much of where you’re pushing us is actually leading us away from God, but not for the reasons you might realize.

I studied theology a bit in college. I took some classes in which I ate stuff up. I love God’s Word. I love when God corrects my beliefs or teaches me new stuff. But what confused me for a while was that these classes killed the faith of many. People actually got angry at the school and reported professors for, in their minds, discrediting and destroying faith. People across campus still talk about how the UFND theology classes at SPU pushed them away from God. In my mind, this almost has to be because the faith of these students had been placed on the wrong foundation by their churches, teachers, and culture. Rather than being taught that all of this is stuff God meant for us to encounter and wrestle with and figure out, they were taught that a challenge to previously held notions or beliefs was wrong. When all of these challenges suddenly came on, there was no foundation in the critical absolutes.

“If _____ wasn’t true, then everything could be wrong. Many of us don’t even think that _____ isn’t “true” per se, but that it can just maybe mean something else than what we’ve been taught.”

A memory of mine that has firmly shaped my theology today is that of a few words from my parents when I was a kid. It was a Sunday, the pastor had preached a good message, and I was talking to them about the service and Church. I’d left my Bible at home on accident and they reminded me, “Make sure to bring your Bible. Make sure to read your Bible and double check everything that’s said and taught. Because even though Pastor is a good guy, he could still end up teaching something that isn’t sound. Anyone can. That’s why you have to be ready to check everything against what God Himself says.” Thank God for my parents. Luckily they trained me up in a way in which the reality of my faith was dictated directly by Christ and His Salvation and what God says in His Word. A lot of us weren’t taught to challenge teaching and the Church from within it. A lot of us weren’t taught that we should be questioning and finding things that seem to conflict. A lot of us were taught that Scripture is inerrant and that this means that something that seems to conflict can’t be real, rather than being taught to dig even deeper and find the proper interpretation. A lot of us tried to resolve these things and were just shot down by leadership as if we were challenging the existence of Christ Himself. Because if ____ wasn’t true, then everything could be wrong. Many of us don’t even think that ____ isn’t “true” per se, but that it can just maybe mean something else than what we’ve been taught.

What’s happening today is what happens when you have a church with a faith based not on Christ and the Gospel, but on doctrinal teachings, culture, family, music, morals, and politics. What’s happening today is what happens when we ignore Paul when he said that he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” What’s happening is us Millennials decided to study Scripture further than anyone before us and couldn’t reconcile Scripture with what we’d been taught was foundational. What’s happening is seminary is nicknamed cemetery because of how much people’s faith dies in it as God’s Word seems to conflict with things they’ve been taught. What’s happening is a deep confusion between pursuing and knowing God and what to do when we discover things that run counter to what some have taught us “Christianity” is. What’s happening is we’re further into Scripture than ever, with an abundance of head knowledge, but our churches are failing to emphasize heart knowledge.

As we dig and dig, we’ve found things that seem to conflict, both with what was taught to us and what Scripture seems to say. We dove headfirst into Scripture and for many of us it destroyed our faith; a faith that some of Christian culture had pushed onto the wrong foundation. The Church told them that women can’t lead in Church or society. They found Deborah in the Bible. The Church told them that homosexuality is wrong based on Leviticus (Seriously, why not base those beliefs on Romans 1?). They found that you eat shellfish and that the Law was fulfilled in Christ. The Church told them that the world had to have been created in 7 literal days. They found that Jews saw the Creation account as poetry and that chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis give different orders and accounts of Creation. We found that Jesus’ ascension happened in completely different places in different parts of Scripture. You told us to dig and dig and dig. We did. And we came to you with questions. You told us that Scripture all aligned and all meant X. Much of the Church, rather than acknowledging these tough questions and trying to figure them out with us and properly interpret them, just said they were wrong, misinformed, or even blasphemous.

So what happened?

Many millennials decided it ALL must not be true; that it all must not be real. Many millennials said that if their church wasn’t right about _____ in Scripture, it might not be right about anything. Many millennials dove into Scripture and found everything they’d been taught to be challenged and at that point just said, “What? This doesn’t make sense.” And with no foundation built on challenging and deciphering Scripture, with no foundation on the essential truth of Christ, the importance of Christian community, and how to figure out seeming paradoxes, Millennials left the Church. I’ve seen this happen right before my eyes. You’ve seen it happen. Many of you just don’t seem to get why it’s happening.

“I do not believe that I am inerrant or that my pastor is inerrant.”

I believe Scripture is the inerrant Word of God. I believe it is a tool that God gave us to figure out life, to guide our morals, and to know Him. But I believe this means that we must follow Scripture over culture. I believe this means we will find things that challenge what we’ve been taught. I believe this means we will learn we were wrong and God will grow us. I believe this means that when we see stuff that doesn’t make sense, we have to dig into the Greek and the context because there really is reason for the differences. But I do not believe that the Church is inerrant. I do not believe that Christian Culture is inerrant. I do not believe that I am inerrant or that my pastor is inerrant. It seems that we’ve mixed this stuff up here in America.

I know this has been long, but I want to leave you with this encouragement, both for you Millennials and for those of you who want to make this right or dig into this stuff yourselves. The Protestant Church exists today (and the Catholic Church is better today) completely because one man found a false teaching in his church and, rather than leave or abandon the Church, attempted to teach and reform it. Perhaps you’ve heard of this Martin Luther guy. Let’s all be a little bit more like him (minus the anti-Semitism and crazy stuff from later on) and be unafraid to dig into Scripture and continue shaping and reshaping our faith forever. Let’s not abandon the Church, but wrestle with guiding it from within. Let’s not lose faith because we find God seems to say things that “Christianity” doesn’t, but rather shape our faith to the new things God teaches us constantly. Let’s be a learning and mobile Christianity.; one Body dedicated to Christ, under His grace and salvation, and living lives of sacrifice for His creation, people, and Kingdom. Amen.

My Second Meaningful Encounter at One Simple Old Stoplight

Yesterday, I had my second meaningful encounter at one specific stoplight in Seattle. Some of you know about the time I was blessed by a stoplight that skipped me three times and allowed me to talk with an incredibly kind homeless man, reminding me that things we view as inconveniences are sometimes God’s way of telling us to slow down and look around.

Yesterday afternoon, I met a man named Doug at that stoplight. I pulled up and saw a homeless man with a sign that summarized a life-changing episode, saying, “Laid off, now homeless, need work.” I looked around my car to see if I had anything to give him real quick. Nope, nothing. Then I remembered that I had some extra snacks that my boss let me take home from work today.
“Hey buddy,” I called and signalled him over. “How’s it going?”
“Eh I’m alright, how about yourself?” he replied.
“No complaints here. Hey, what’s your name man.”
“Doug.”
“Hi Doug, I’m Christopher. I just wanted to let ya know that I’ll be praying for ya. Also, I work at a cafe and have some snacks from work here. Would you like them?”
“Uh, sure,” he said, seeming kind of startled. He probably didn’t expect to encounter a guy with a little pink cardboard box offering some strange looking South African treats.
As I handed him the treats I told him, “You know, I was almost homeless once. Just last year.”
“Really? What happened?” he asked, obviously surprised.
“Lost my job, just like you. I was just kinda lucky that my parents and roommates could spot me money for my rent for a couple of months. I understand how difficult of a time it can be though, not knowing where your money for life will come from. You’ll be in my prayers man.”
Doug then reached into his pocket and pulled out the white slip that I’ve included a picture of.
“Here, these are thank you notes of sorts.” After he said this he took a bite of the spinach and feta roll I’d given him. “Wow, these are really something! Thanks!”
His face lit up just a bit and suddenly my insignificant gift was actually worth something. I hope I brightened his day at least a little.

After that my light turned green and I had to drive off, but I would like to try to do a little more for Doug. You see, his note shows that what’s happened to Doug could really happen to any of us. He has a degree in CIS and has had work his whole life. Right now he’s just hit a hard time, as many of us will at some point. So I need your help. If you know of any opportunities for work for Doug in CIS somewhere, please let me know. Or if you might know anyone who might know someone, please share this with them. Help me to make Doug’s day even better.
God bless you all.

Persecution

Per·se·cu·tion
pərsəˈkyo͞oSHən
noun
hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs.

As Christians, why does persecution surprise us?

Why does it anger us and bring us outrage? Why do we demand to be treated better, often see our persecutors as opponents unworthy of God’s grace, and even sometimes retaliate or call for retaliation? Were we not told to expect this when we signed on with Christ? (2 Timothy 3:12) Were we not given directions in advance to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matt 5:43-48) Peter even says not to consider persecution “as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12-19). So why does our reaction to persecution of the Church today look so…well, typical? Predictable even?

My fellow Christians, God has a call for us. He is calling us to shower the world with Christ’s love. He is calling us to respond to persecution of ourselves and fellow believers not with hate or disgust for the persecutors, but with support for the suffering. Dare I say it, he is calling us to respond to the persecutors themselves with love and empathy for these lost people. He is calling for us to graciously accept anything and everything that the world throws at us or the rest of the Church. He is calling for us to turn the other cheek, to offer our tunic to those who rob us of our cloaks, and to surprise the world with how incredibly different we are. He even calls us to enter persecution knowingly and willingly.

Today, the Christian church is facing persecution of various degrees.

Tens of thousands of Christians were recently forcibly evicted from Mosul in Iraq, Christians across Syria are suffering at the hands of extremists, Christians have been imprisoned recently in Iran and Sudan, the Church continues to be persecuted to near elimination in North Korea, and Christians in Nigeria are suffering at the hands of Boko Haram. Overall, Christianity is illegal or physically dangerous in about 51 countries of the world. Persecution of a lesser degree has happened in the West, with some seeing certain political actions as persecutions of the Church and with parts of Europe being seemingly hostile to religion altogether. So yea, we’ve got some tough stuff going on. But let me tell you, we can use that hostility to turn the world on its head.

We’ve just gotta respond in a way that would turn heads.

Jesus says some pretty awesome stuff in chapter 5 of Matthew. Something he says about persecution specifically that’s always stuck out to me is Matthew 5:11-12, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Wow. Be glad about persecution? What? Um, Jesus, you do understand what persecution is, right? It kinda sucks… Huh, maybe he just doesn’t understand what persecution is like… Or maybe, just maybe, He plans to use our persecution to save others and to glorify His name.  In all honesty, I think many of us Christians today often respond to persecution in much the same way that anyone else would. We avoid it, detest it, and get angry about it. We march in protest, shout about our rights, and overall demand to be treated right. I can’t blame ya. Everyone deserves justice, yea? Everyone deserves to be treated fairly, yea? Isn’t that what Western society, democracy, and the modern world is all about? Equal rights for all and such gooshy stuff?

But what if we took a more humble approach?

What if, instead of spending time marching for our rights that are infringed upon, we spent that time ministering to the needs of those infringing on our rights? What if we considered others as more important than ourselves? (Phil 2:3) What if we chose to be wise not in the world’s way, but in God’s way. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18.

I will say, it is crucial and absolutely called of us as Christians to stand for justice. And we are meant to oppose wrongdoing and evil. But I believe we should oppose evil itself. Oppose the Evil One, not the ones he has deceived. Make it your priority in life to reconcile the lost to Christ, even when they persecute you or others. Let your heart break for those stuck in hatred rather than also being driven towards hatred by their actions. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. Trust me, God will judge those who allow themselves to be instruments of evil and do not turn from their ways. No condemnation from us will even make a difference in the end.

But for us, love, above all things, is meant to emanate from our lives, absolutely regardless of anything going on in the world around us. I call you to pray for the persecuted, but to pray for the persecutors just as much (if not more). We can change the world through Christ, but we must consider ourselves nothing for the sake of others first.

Counting our lives as nothing for the sake of others.

About a century ago, a band of brave souls became known as one-way missionaries. They bought tickets to the mission field without the return half. Instead of suitcases, they packed their few earthly belongings into coffins. As they sailed away, they waved goodbye to everyone they loved and all they knew, knowing they’d never return home. They gave up everything to leave for near-guaranteed persecution. One of those missionaries was A.W. Milne. He set sail for the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, aware that the headhunters there had martyred every. single. missionary. before him. But guess what. Milne didn’t fear for his life because he had already died to himself. His coffin was packed. He ended up living among the tribe for 35 years, sharing Christ and His love with people who had previously horrifically killed many of his brethren. When he died, they buried him in the middle of the village and inscribed the following on his tombstone: “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.” I wish to see more people thinking like that today. Counting our lives as nothing for the sake of others.

See the world as God sees it.

I hope that we can all come to see the world as God sees it, a place full of people desperately in need of their Creator, beloved and beautiful, and in need of healing over their brokenness. In Ezekiel 18:23 and 27 God says, “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die?…Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live…if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life.” I encourage you to do all you can in your life to help people turn to God and be reconciled to Him, so that their incredibly valuable lives will be saved.

I will leave you now with the passage of 1 Peter 3:8-18. This passage summarizes beautifully the focus that God hopes to see in our lives.
“8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
11 They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

The Most Difficult Love

I’m going to be vulnerable right now. I’m going to tell you something that God has put on my heart for myself to hear, but that I feel he wishes for me to share. Now, read this closely and carefully, or you will most definitely get the wrong message. I absolutely hate when people misinterpret what I’m trying to say, so pleeeease try not to do so.

But here, this is my confession: It is sometimes extremely hard for me to love God.

It’s not hard for me to like Him, to adore Him, to serve Him, or even to worship Him, but it’s honestly difficult for me to love my Creator with every ounce of my being. To add to the irony, it is often easier for me to love people than it is for me to love God. We love because He first loved us, yet it’s easier for me to show His love to others than it is for me to show that same love to Him. It’s crazy. And upon the beginning of my introspection, this discovery didn’t make much sense to me. I’m here in Africa right now with the purpose of serving and loving God and others. Yet, even in my ministry, I find it easier to minister to others, to display God’s love to the people of Nairobi, than to love God as He loves me. Despite my entire mission here being to glorify God, to live intimately with Him is still a struggle that surpasses many others in difficulty. When Jesus told us “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” he knew that we were going to face a powerful struggle just to walk with Him. Following Him can be much harder than merely following His ways. So I’ve been thinking about this. And I’ve realized some stuff.

Love is meant to be constant, thoughtful, intentional, and relational.

First of all, a loving relationship with God is different than any other loving relationship. And we should address it as such. The closest thing to it is the analogy of a romantic relationship, as shown in Hosea and countless places in Scripture in which we as the Church are referred to as Christ’s bride. A reality that many of us know is that romance, ironic enough, is filled with a more difficult love, despite being perhaps the richest love we can experience with another person. I wonder, is this because it’s more demanding? Is this because it encompasses more? Is this just because along with more opportunities to love also come more opportunities not to? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s all of those. I mean, you can cheat on a spouse, but you can’t cheat on a friend. Yea, I think that the more all-encompassing a love becomes, the more challenges we will face to its integrity. I think this fact has a role to play. A romantic love is not one that is called to action on occasion. Rather, it is meant to be constant, thoughtful, intentional, and relational. It’s a love that lives and permeates everything. In the words of DC Talk, “Love is a verb”. We don’t try to refrain from actions that would hurt our significant other just because they’re wrong, but more because of the hurt that our actions would bring them. And merely not hurting them isn’t enough. If two people in a relationship never do anything wrong, it can still be dead. We also need to be active and intentional in our love to keep a relationship strong. All of this applies to our relationship with God too. The reality that we face in our human relationships also extends to our relationship with our Creator.

We can’t just follow God as a teacher of morals, we need to walk with Him as our intimate Maker too.

To add to the struggle in this relationship though, our entire beings, our biology, our flesh (as Paul put it), is against God and His ways. Survival of the fittest, self-interest, human nature, it all dictates that we follow our way, not God’s. Even in religious spheres, we find ourselves wanting to do things in very specific ways that we’re most comfortable with. In the social sciences, this human nature is acknowledged by many (regardless of religious belief) as something that we all must overcome, but it takes on a new dimension when we think about this nature’s potential impact on our relationship with our Creator. Luckily enough, Christ has given us a new nature, capable of acting beyond our fleshly instinct. But we still have tendencies to revert back to our old nature.

Sadly, when we pursue the desires of our old ways over his, we aren’t aiming to hurt him, yet that’s often what happens. “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live” (Ephesians 4:30). We should be aware of that. To sin against God (and all sin is directly against God), given the analogy found in the book of Hosea, is to cheat on him. It’s tantamount to betraying a spouse and the intimacy of that kind of relationship. It’s really crazy. But loving God and not sinning against Him is so much more than just not doing things. It’s about actively doing things too. You could be getting all the morals right, but still be missing the message behind the morals. We have to make sure not to just follow God’s way in our religious beliefs, but to follow God’s way in our life and relationships too. We can’t just follow God as a teacher of law, we need to walk with Him as our intimate Maker too. Dang, this love thing is complex!

It’s easier to display God’s love than it is to bask in it.

But it sure is rewarding. I’ve always found it ironic that so much within us tells us that we have better things to do than pray in God’s presence, get into Scripture, or spend time just…in relationship with God, when those very things are the most fulfilling, joyful, and peace-bringing activities we can engage in. In fact, that’s what’s at the heart of Christianity itself. In Matthew 22, Jesus says “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Everything in our faith stems from these two commandments. If we learn to be consistent and make that our lifestyle, it changes things for us. Yet, how easy it is to forget that joy, that peace, and that fulfillment. It’s crazy. It’s easier to go out and display God’s love than it is to bask in it. But the most difficult things are often the most rewarding. How greatly that applies here. I challenge you today to take a second to thinking about whatever you’re doing for God, to pause in your worship, service, or adoration, and reflect on whether you’re really loving God or not. I challenge you to pause as I had to do and make sure that you aren’t merely living a life for God, but that you’re living a life with God.

As you try to live out a life for God, don’t forget to love Him in the process.

Metaphorically, are you the person who’s buying their kids anything and everything they could ever want, yet who never spends time in relationship with them? What those kids want most isn’t the stuff that they have plenty of. What they want most is their parent’s love. Those toys and goodies mean nothing if the parent giving them is nothing more than a stranger. So don’t be a stranger with God. He saved you to reconcile you to Him, not to just get you to do more stuff in His name. ‘Reconcile’ is a relational word. Remember that. Let us together strive to live out this difficult, but incredibly rewarding, relationship of love with God. As you try to live out a life for God, don’t forget to love Him in the process.

Recognizing Brokenness

Today in my Issues In African and Asian Christianity class we spent some time reading about a pastor in Baghdad.  In our reading, the author took a moment to briefly describe the reality of the violence that this pastor had placed himself in the midst of, mentioning that one day on his way to his church the pastor walked past 60 bodies graphically hanging along the street. What struck me at this moment wasn’t that fact itself, but how I almost heard that and merely thought “Wow, that’s rough,” instead of feeling actual anguish; anguish over the brokenness of our world displayed in the reality that this pastor was experiencing around himself.

The lyrics of Hosanna immediately came to my mind when I considered this. It’s a song we sing in church all the time, but I don’t think we really always mean the lyrics. In the bridge we sing, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.  Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause.” Do we really mean those words though? Do our hearts break at the injustice in the world? Why do we tolerate the brokenness? Why do we settle for “that’s just how the world is”, rather than being the change that we [should] wish to see in the world and refusing to accept the world as it is?  Why do we hear facts like “About 29,000 children under the age of five –  21 each minute – die every day, mainly from preventable causes. (UNICEF.org)”, and not respond with outrage that we as a society allow this to happen?  Why is the brokenness of the world not constantly, or even really occasionally, on our minds?

I’m not saying that we should all be mopey and depressed about how broken the world is, but I think reality should hit us, and it should hit hard.  We shouldn’t just be satisfied living life with our nice cars, big homes, clean running water, and monthly $10 donation to some random charity.  We should be praying earnestly, taking some kind of time out of our year for ministry outside of our home city, taking some kind of time for ministry in our cities, ministering to the ‘least of these’, living as Christ actually lived.  Sometimes I think much of our Church in America seems more like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, obsessed with a moral code and ‘righteous’ living, rather than like Christ himself, loving the marginalized and living humbly and embracing those who are suffering while walking with God in ways that reflect more of his positive actions than his negative ones (Do vs. Do Not).  We have an abundance of sympathy here in the US, but a real shortage of empathy.  When we see pain, we’re more likely to respond with “Wow, that’s a bummer,”  than we are to respond with, “Wow, that’s terrible.  Let me come alongside you and just be here for you in whatever way I can.  You’re actually worth some of my time.”

I’m not demanding that we all just pack up our stuff and leave for the most broken and violent regions of the world right now, ready to risk everything in order to display God’s love for people in the midst of violence and poverty (although some of us really should).  What I’m saying is that we should feel something for these people.  We should care.  The plights of the impoverished, the abused, the victims of violence, the trafficked, the homeless, the broken, the weary, and all those suffering should be addressed in our thoughts, in our prayers, in our giving, and in how we spend our time.  Christ did not come so that we could have happiness in our little bubbles of security and wealth (If you even make minimum wage then you’re richer than at least 80% of the world.  Think about that sometime.).  He didn’t come to establish a moral code (the Pharisees already had that covered).  He didn’t even come so we could just tell people about him and all share some kumbayas and joy.  He came to redeem the world back to himself and to change our lives radically.  The lives of the early Christians we find in Scripture were incredibly changed when they put their faith in Christ.  What if we actually began to care about the world as God does?  What if Christ’s love showed up in our time, our finances, our prayers, our churches, and even our daily attitudes and the most minuscule of actions?  What if the status of the world we live in really began to mean something to us?  I don’t think we could help but change it.

Even if we can’t regularly place ourselves among those suffering for whatever reason (Maybe you legitimately don’t have the time to volunteer regularly or something.  I get that.  I’ve been there.), we can at least make a difference in our every day actions.  For one thing, we can be active in intercessory prayer for those suffering.  In many places where God acts in Scripture it’s directly in relation to prayers (Exodus 3, Judges 3, and Acts 12 are just a few examples).  I don’t know why God allows us to have a direct impact on how and when he acts, but it seems that he does. For whatever reason, he seems to desire for us imperfect men and women to be part of the actions he takes in His perfect redemption of the world.  And beyond prayer, we should be living lives overall that serve as reflections of the grace and love that we’ve been able to experience thanks to Christ.  Next time you see that homeless person on the corner, invite em to dinner.  Next time you know someone struggling with finances while you’re doing pretty well yourself, anonymously help them out.  Maybe in the next year you could even dedicate some time to putting yourself in a distant city or nation in the service of God.  We can’t fix all of the brokenness of the world ourselves, but we can be unique parts in the story of God doing so.

I want to end with two passages from Scripture.  The first is one of exhortation to action.  The second is one of the hope that we can have in Christ’s redemption of the world.  As someone who currently studies poverty, injustice, and the overall brokenness of the world that needs fixed, the hope that God has given us for the happy ending is sometimes all that keeps me from just burying my head in the sand.

Isaiah 58:6-7,9-10
“6 Is not this the fast that I choose;
to loosen the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
…9 Then you shall call and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom shall be as the noonday.”

That’s what God wants from us more than all the worship, fasting, mega-churches, sermons, and tithing in the world.

Hosea 2:18-20
“…18 And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.  19 And I will betroth you to me forever.  I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and mercy.  20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.  And you shall know the LORD.”

God promises to remove the pain of this world.  He promises that we’ll one day live in peace and justice and perfect intimacy with Him.  But if we do not fight the world’s current brokenness ourselves, we miss being part of God’s active redemption and renewal.  It has been said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  Luckily for us though, we have a God who will act regardless of whether we do or not.  But still, I exhort you to be that change that you wish to see in the world, and to earnestly wish to see many things change.

Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours.