When No One Sees
The days are growing shorter, and autumn is finally here. I find the slowing of pace which earlier nights afford to be so welcome every year. It is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on life, and there is much to think about.
As we travel across the country upon ministry assignments, there are two things that I have particularly noticed lately. The first is that most people are quite worried about the state of the world, regardless of their age, socioeconomic status, or political point of view. There is a dark cloud hanging over so many, and people are truly feeling anxious and even afraid. The second is quite different, and is something I wish everyone could see with us. God is moving, and thousands of young men and women across the nation are encountering the real love and hope of Christ. Jesus is setting them free, as only He can.
I have always loved the front row seat to our culture that university student ministry affords. College allows many people a soft launch into the adult world, as the definitive end of childhood and beginning of the next stage. It is also a place to see up close and personally how every parenting style, educational theory, and religious pursuit ends up. The things that you see on the news about what is happening on our campuses are all true - many kids are not alright. They really have seen it all, and are not impressed. In fact, so many of them are broken and deeply wounded physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Hearing their stories, it actually is no wonder that so many of them are angry and confused.
But what you are not shown on the nightly news is that when young people have an opportunity to hear and experience Truth, many of them respond and are grateful to run towards God. The contrast this affords on campus is tremendous. Too many classes on too many campuses are teaching some hopeless and dead-end things. No matter how people might try to explain it away, the problem of sin is real, and we need Someone to save us from it. The hope for our world continues to be the Gospel. When people find this Truth, their lives shine brilliantly in the darkness.
A friend recently gave us a copy of a wonderful book that I had never read before. The Book That Made Your World has been so eye-opening to me, and I highly recommend it. Vishal Mangalwadi was born and raised in India, and found faith in Christ at a young age. He and his wife have chosen to dedicate their lives to sharing their faith and practices in their homeland. This book is written as an examination of Western Civilization from his own very Eastern perspective and experience.
Each of the chapters examines a concept and how the Bible has impacted it in the nations that embraced Christ: it includes topics such as humanity, rationality, education, science and technology, family, language, music, and so forth. The chapter I read most recently was about morality, and it was so thought-provoking.
One story in particular stood out to me. Mangalwadi told of a trip he took to The Netherlands years ago, where he visited a large and sparklingly clean dairy farm with a friend. The whole operation was automated, and no one was attending the dairy at the time of their visit. They bought some fresh milk by putting their money into a bowl on a shelf. The friend actually put in a large bill and took out the exact amount of change from the cash in the bowl. Vishal laughed and pointed out that in many places around the world, when in an untended shop, people would just take the milk and all the money in the bowl, too. Maybe even the cows!
What is the only thing that can stop corruption and wickedness, not just in business, but in all interpersonal relationships? There must be someone watching all the time. Not just anyone, for in many systems with much oversight, things often turn to bribery to get around rightness and justice. It must be someone completely trustworthy and who is always vigilant.
The point is that Christianity produced the kind of society where people did trustworthy business with one another because most people truly believed that God was always present and watching. It did not matter to them if anyone else saw - Christians knew that God sees, and changed their behavior accordingly. Christians also believed that life was not just about here and now, but also about eternity. They believed that what we do actually matters, all the time.
In this chapter, Vishal also mentioned an index that ranks countries on a scale for how much corruption is a part of the nation’s fabric. When the book was published in 2011, the USA was proudly ranked number 6. I looked up the most recent rankings - in 2020, we were tied for a dismal 67th. Our hard turn away from God and His Word shows too plainly.
As followers of Jesus, it is no longer enough for us to look back and remember when society was Christian - we must take action. Rather than remain stuck, in nostalgia at best or discouragement and despair at worst, this is a great time for Christians to really live and share their faith. So many times in history, when the people of God remember who they are, and who God is, hope and blessing are restored to the land.
The question is, of course, what can we actually do? The problems are so big and numerous, it seems difficult to imagine that any of us can make much of a difference. Thankfully and hopefully, the rest of the morality chapter highlights the Wesleyan Revival of the 19th century. Things were arguably worse then than they are even now. I am sure that if any of us had been alive during that era, we would have been tempted to fall into discouragement and despair, just like today. But along came John and Charles Wesley, two brothers who had a real encounter with the Living God, and who dramatically changed the world.
- They believed that the Bible was the true and living Word of God. As Mangalwadi observed, in that generation, "Restoration of the authority of the Bible in the English world amounted to a civilization finding its soul." How wonderful it would be if people could say that of our generation! The Wesleys studied the Bible, obeyed it, taught it, cherished it, and lived by it. We can do the same.
- They changed the way they were living. After they accepted Christ, the brothers lived differently. They chose to consistently act unselfishly and with honesty. They became generous and selfless, and arranged their lives around their faith - not the other way around. They lived as though God was always watching, even if no one else was, and as though eternity was real and mattered. We can do all of these things, if we will.
- They helped others know and walk with God. The Wesleys would not be content with just having personal revival. They were intent upon helping as many others know Jesus as they could, were committed to helping people learn and grow as Christians, and helped so many learn to express their faith in their homes and in the marketplace. They spent the rest of their lives practicing these habits. We can do this, too.
"Transformation of a nation is an intergenerational task," according to Mangalwadi. I love knowing that those of you reading this have a wonderful range in age and life experience. I believe that if just the few hundred of us reading this would take these things to heart, and put them into practice, God would bless our efforts. It is so encouraging to remember that just a few people really living for God can change so much. For the rest of the fall, we will continue to take a deeper look into Christian Morality. Until next time, may the Lord richly bless and keep you!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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