Lift up Your Eyes
Most of the time, my world is rather small. I drive to work the same route most days, go to the same church over and over, and circulate within a fairly well-defined circle of friends. But once in a while, something comes along that shakes up that little world of mine, and I am forced to lift my eyes to the larger world—the one God sees all the time.
Recently I was invited to be a delegate to the 13th annual Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop in New York City. This event is sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank founded in 1921 by the Rockefeller Foundation and specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. Because the Council leaders see the religious dimension of life profoundly affecting society and politics all over the world, they gather together representatives from a variety of faiths once a year for this special conference. Relief agency heads, political leaders, and religious and social leaders from a variety of global religions lead sessions over a two-day period. As I listened and took notes, my little worldview was blown apart. Here are a few things I learned.
We are currently experiencing the highest levels of population displacement on record, with no end in sight. An estimated 70.8 million people have been forced from their homes, with 25.9 million of that number being refugees. Half are under the age of 18.
The average length of stay in a refugee camp is 25 years. Added to that are the problems of widespread poverty, staggering health issues, and energy and water access.
The average age in Nigeria in 2018 was 17.9 years—some stats have it as low as 15—with 60% being under 25 years of age. (The average age in the U. S. is 38.) Population in this bellwether African nation will double by 2050.
Religious freedom in China will likely continue to decrease in the years to come.
The Middle East turmoil continues with no end in sight, with its complex mixture of religious and political and social elements intermingled.
The poor will disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change globally.
Human trafficking and various other forms of slavery and extreme exploitation know no geographical or political boundaries, including in our own country.
You get the idea. The world is quite a mess. It has been for a long time. And yet into this dark world came a Light that pierced the darkness. The same Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world,” also said to his followers, “You are the light of the world.” And by the way, don’t hide your light and simply curse the darkness; let it shine, he added. Then he wrapped up the sending with a blessing: “I will be with you always, right up to the end.”
The church I attend has a mission statement of sorts. It seeks to do three things: to restore our church, to restore our city, and to restore the world. Audacious, don’t you think? And biblical. The mustard seed. The grain of wheat. The two mites. Small things; small beginnings. But in the hands of the Lord, well that’s quite a different story. It is called the power of the gospel.
The point is, even though it is comfortable and habit-forming in our part of the world of ease and prosperity to settle in, Jesus continually calls us out of our complacency to do audacious things—way beyond our limited human vision. And so we gather up our courage, brush off our faith, remember our calling, and go do what we can in the name of Jesus.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).