by Matthew Smith
We live in a world full of crises: the refugee crisis, Islamic State terrorism, global poverty and hunger, climate change, natural disasters, civil wars, cancer, HIV, human trafficking, global economic uncertainty and instability and the constant threat of a future crisis. In a world full of crisis, what is the Christian message? Can we offer hope? If so, what should we be doing to demonstrate love, peace and kindness to others?
I’m a first year Ordinand, training for ministry in the Church of England. I would like to disclaim that I am not representing the entirety of the Anglican church perspective on these issues neither do I have all the answers, but I have prayerfully considered this and hope that you find some of what I have to share useful.
Firstly, as a Christian I believe that there is a hope; in the light of so much desperation we witness in the world around us, we can have the assurance that God is near. It may not always seem like it but as a Christian I believe that God is far greater than the largest crises. In the bible we are called not to be anxious and to trust in the Lord; in Deuteronomy 31:6 it says ‘be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Another Christian truth I think we can hold onto is found in Romans 8:38-39 when it says ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
From the verse in Deuteronomy we read that God will not forsake us, God hasn’t just forgotten about us and is not sitting idle, enjoying seeing many people suffer. But we are called to be strong and show courage, which suggests that there will be hardships [which is also suggested throughout the bible, in Psalm 46:1 it says ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’] In the Romans passage it talks about the closeness of God, which reaffirms my belief that God is there in the midst of our darkness; which fills me with hope because we know that: 1) God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9) and 2) God is good and his love for us endures forever (Psalm 136:1). However, the Christian hope is not just that God is near and that He loves us, it is also that He is powerful; He is in control and most importantly that death has been defeated.
Earlier in Romans 8 it says that ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ (v28) but despite the promises that God has made to us, which he does keep (Deuteronomy 7:9 and Hebrews 10:23) because God is holy (Leviticus 19:2) we still live in a broken world, we live in a time of waiting, waiting for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the meantime, we can live with the knowledge and assurance that ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’ (Colossians 1:17) Additionally we can have assurance because God says ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’ (Revelation 22:13) This is really significant to us as Christians as we have an eternal hope as mentioned in Revelation 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ This is the hope which Christians should be declaring to offer peace to a distressed world.
In the meantime, we are called to be a people of love; I believe Jesus calls us to live drastically and to show outrageous generosity to those around us. In the story of Mary washing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume (John 12:3) and Jesus praising that whilst others around dismissed it as extravagant and wasteful. In Ronal J Snider’s book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, he expresses his despair at how the Church in the West has become addicted to materialism and consumerism and that he calls for Rich Christians (which all of us from the Global North are) to take the bible’s call for sacrificial generosity seriously. I think we should be demonstrating ‘loving our neighbour’ really practically and we will see his Kingdom come on Earth when the church is united in living this out ecumenically. Obviously as individuals we are not going to solve all of the world’s crises, neither are we going to bring about world peace or resolve global poverty and hunger by living counter-culturally different lives; but we do have the Holy Spirit and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can make a positive and lasting influence locally, nationally and even internationally.
Philippians 4:6 says ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ So let’s do that as Christians with the knowledge of God’s unfailing love for us and his plan for our salvation already secured through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are now free to live the life that God has set out for us, in all its fullness, and He has given us the opportunity to participate in His mission for the world.