The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart….the earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 6:5-6, 11)
With the fall of humanity, sin, pain, and suffering have marred our world. Advances in information technology and global communication have made the images, sounds, and stories of the pain and suffering of millions of people around the world more tangible in our living rooms at a touch of a button. From the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, to the ethnic conflicts in Africa and Southeast Asia, famine, tsunamis, HIV/AIDS, slavery, trafficking, and exploitation, it is evident that death, violence, pain, and suffering are ever with us. What can we say and what can we do in the face of such bleak and overwhelming darkness?
It is into this world, a very broken world, that Christ calls us to boldly follow him as his disciples and to share the good news of his love and grace. It is counterintuitive and even subversive for us to follow him and to become like him, as it calls upon us to first relinquish our own powers and abilities and submit to his. As our brother Isaiah Dau (Sudan) writes,
We live in the tension of faith and suffering even as we walk in the “already and the not yet” of our salvation and deliverance from all that ails us. This faith offers us the option of continuing to trust God even while we accept the limits of our humanity…
This faith calls for us to follow Christ on his terms, in his strength, and in his spirit, not our own (Zechariah 4:6).
In the opening address of the first International Congress on World Evangelization held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974, Billy Graham spoke of the Spirit of Lausanne. This Spirit of Lausanne is a spirit of humility, reflection, partnership, study, and hope. It is with this Spirit we look to face the great and many challenges of 2010.
As Christians, we are not immune to what is happening around us, and often we are even complicit in the brokenness of this world. But it is with this spirit that we must seek the Lord to shed light on where we have been complicit in the sufferings of those around us, with humility confess our sin, and take hope in the power of the Lord to overcome such adversities.
Just as Christ himself was not exempt from hunger, loneliness, persecution, violence, and death yet he overcame, we too shall overcome. Just as he carried his cross, he calls his followers to carry their crosses and to follow him. We do this because our hope is in his promise to be with us until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Our hope is in his promise to return and to restore all things, and make all things new (Revelation 21:1-5)—all things to be as they should be.
As we begin the New Year, we stand at a crossroad. We can either continue to go as we have always gone, or we can do something different. We celebrate the New Year with hearts full of hope because we desire to leave the old behind us and to start afresh. Many make resolutions and resolve to change their ways; but sadly, many fail to make any lasting change to their lives.
Experts say that the failure of New Year’s resolutions is often due to a lack of effective strategy and lack of accountability. As we enter this New Year, let us resolve not to leave things in this broken world as they are, but to boldly follow Christ together and to bring his message of healing and hope in a new and revolutionary way.
Just as the men of Issachar were noted for understanding their times and knowing what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32), so too must we seek the Lord to become men and women with keen perception of our times to develop vision and a cohesive strategy to grapple with the issues of our times. As we are now engaged in the twenty-first century, it is vitally important to bring together both old and new generations to identify the greatest challenges our world face today, how are we to face them as we follow Christ, and how are we to embody Christ for our broken world.
This is our missiological challenge: to follow and become like Christ in the context of our broken world in all its different shattered pieces. It is for this reason the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is being convened this October 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa—to have a Congress that provides hope for the world as we live in a time of great suffering, fragmentation, and fear. As we look toward Cape Town 2010, let this not be the goal itself, but rather only the beginning:
God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and….has committed to us the message of reconciliation.…We are therefore Christ's ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 20)
May the Lord bless our studies, discussions, strategies, and endeavors toward being Christ to our broken world. God’s best to you.