Let me share with you two or three events of the past week. I was talking with a couple of young members of the church who were asking, “What does God want to do with my life.” Specifically, both people had experience in universities, and on mission assignments that changed their view of the world and vocation. One person had gone on a mission trip to China and wondered what it meant for their future vocational plans. Another person was wondering if they should pursue “full-time Christian ministry.” Their stories highlight the need that all of us have to be world Christians, i.e. people who know that loving God means loving the world. But the question is, “How do you go about it?” Let me provide a few suggestions:
Be curious and informed about the world we live in and use it as an opportunity to pray. I’m a news addict. I regularly listen to CNN, the BBC, read the New York Times, Taipei Times, Christianity Today, the Gospel Coalition, and more. If I listen unreflectively and unprayerfully, it’s just information in and out. If I’m not careful, I can become jaded.
You can be hearing about a terrorist attack in Europe which can be followed with a happy commercial about some hair product (not that I need any of those!). You can easily detach yourself from the pain of the world, and internally be saying, “Thank God I am not living there, but just sitting in the comfort and quiet of my living room.”
It can also be depressing as almost all the news is bad. Good news doesn’t sell. You don’t hear commentators reveling in the goodness of God’s creation. You never see a headline that says, “Today, billions of people will receive food, water, sunshine, and love from a bountiful, gracious God.” We seldom struggle with the problem of “Why is there so much good?” In all my years as a pastor, no one has ever asked me that question. On the other hand, many people ask, “Why is there so much evil?”
So how should we respond to the news stream. We should be informed about the world. We should have more than one source about what is happening in the world than a secular news provider, and it should lead us to prayer, repentance, and a daily commitment to love God and people. As our mind is shaped, we can also interact and influence other people in a positive way to help them to shape their minds more Biblically.
Let me encourage all of you to download one app. It is “The Gospel Coalition.” It is Biblically solid, and will help you to think through the big issues of our time. It takes up big issues like “How should we understand and relate to Islam, abortion, racism, same-sex marriage, etc.” In addition, it addresses many practical issues such as, “How do you forgive someone or a group of people where you been seriously damaged?” (that was one of today’s articles).
Use these resources as a prayer guide. Instead of just mindlessly absorbing information, begin to pray for the world. Someone once said that they used the newspaper to encourage them to pray for many of the hot spots of the world, that the Lord would bring his peace and redemption into the stories reported.
Ask the Lord what he wants you to do. For most of us, we need to realize that the will of God is loving people in the place we find ourselves. There is a sense in which all of us are called to be missionaries, i.e. to the people we interact on a daily basis. Our approach needs to be wise, prayerful, and provocative (remember the messages from 1 Peter). For some additional help, you may want to read Paul Miller’s “A Praying Life” and the sequel to it on the book of Ruth which focuses on learning to love.
Along the way, you may want to consider going on a mission trip, supporting a missionary, or an organization that cares for children around the world. You never know where the prayer and love journey may take you. I can’t tell you how much mission trips in my life to Mexico, Turkey, India, and Yugoslavia impacted my own life. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said (and I paraphrase), “You don’t know the path of discipleship. All you know is at the end there is joy.” Also reflect on the quotation above that the Christian life is so much more than carefully trying to avoid sin, but courageously and actively doing God’s will. We need to give up our small ambitions, and realize as we are learning in Romans 6 that we have been taken out of the realm of Adam and brought into the realm of Christ. It’s large and spacious and means that all of us are called to be adventurous world Christians. So go and live large!