At times analysts feared full-on civil war in America. Warring parties became physical after Donald Trump won the vicious US presidential election. Street scenes were reminiscent of more lawless regions and it will take wise, even gentle wisdom to begin healing a very distraught nation.
When the masses voted for England to withdraw from the European Union, they called it Brexit. The ruling Establishment was rocked and the nation is in the process of working through the changes.
Independent political leaders in Europe have been encouraged by the fall-out. They feel energized to lead a mounting charge against the more recognized major political parties. Australian politicians have also stirred their supporters with lethal language and the fruit is beginning to appear with disturbing possibilities.
Christians have a vital role to be salt and light, and play our part to reverse the trend.
June 28, 1903, the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon spoke on the ministry of reconciliation. “And (he) has given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 18). He described how this ministry became necessary after ‘our first parents hearkened to the serpent’s voice and believed the Devil rather than their Maker.’
In the current international climate it is very obvious the voice of the serpent continues to influence many. The role of the Christian is to stand in the gap and represent our God who is love, who is peace. Spurgeon emphasized God gave this ministry to humans. He did not address angels or heavenly beings but the Church.
How can we begin such a vital influence and help the world around us adjust? It starts with an essential fellowship across the Kingdom. Sadly we have been too often, part of the problem. When I served in the Middle East, the churches united so that we maximized our strength. We often united for prayer and outreach. The goal was not to win souls for ‘our church’ but for the Kingdom of God.
To be effective our ministry of reconciliation must be applied with the full force of the Almighty. The moment we replace Him with selfishness, or replace humility with pride, His Spirit is quenched, and our influence is merely humanistic. Church can quickly become a club rather than a spiritual force of righteousness.
Study the headlines of this year and consider what they suggest might be the terrifying possibilities in 2017. God has set us apart to make a difference, but that Kingdom difference only comes in His name.
When my wife and I lived in Jerusalem, we learned Hebrew words used by the messianic communities to identify the characteristics of God. Jehovah Rophe means ‘Jehovah heals’ or ‘Jehovah my Health’ and it is by this name, He was known when the Israelites were lost in the wilderness. The people survived by following the pillar of cloud by day and by night. The children of Israel did not stumble around aimlessly, they focused on the Lord and followed when He led the way and only then. (Exodus chapter 15, verse 22) That sense of His divine Presence is a huge blessing in itself.
Another popular Hebrew name is Jehovah Shalom. The world desperately needs His shalom. There is an old saying that best describes the unrest in the world. It says, ‘No God, no peace! Know God, know peace!” So true.
The Israelites have known some very disturbing times. One tells us ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges chapter 21, verse 25) They had backslidden and rather than follow Him they were moving selfishly caught up in their flesh. There are so many voices of anger and discontent today, the verse seems very applicable.
Author Marilyn Hickey explains, “Consider the word shalom. People in Israel say, ‘Shalom! Shalom!’ I once asked why they say it twice. It is because they want you to have peace in the inner man as well as peace in the outer man.” She added, “A final meaning of shalom is so beautiful that I wont expound upon it. It simply communicates ‘peace’ in the most perfect way imaginable.” Hickey explains it is used 170 times throughout the Bible, and then reminds us: “The prophet Isaiah announced that Jesus would come as ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6).
The most powerful outreach is not achieved by church professionals but more often by ordinary every day believers. I often found myself in animated conversations about my faith at my local golf club. The discussion often turned to be about a real estate agent and a store owner both members of our church. Their names came up when so many of my conversationalists referred to those men and shared how impressed they were with them in business. Their witness was profound and effective.
Years ago I was in a Youth With a Mission team working among Vietnamese refugees in a camp in Hong Kong. Our first request to serve there was denied by the supervisor. He eventually relented but warned us not to evangelize. Instead he assigned us, to restore a blocked and overflowing toilet system. When that unpalatable task was completed we turned up and asked for our next assignment. The Supervisor said he was stunned and did not believe we would be back but he then gave us permission to conduct evangelistic services and support programmes.
I will never forget the first refugee who came over to me and asked, “Why do you do this?” Our world is in desperate need of God, the Father. Jesus died for the lost and commissioned us to reach out to them. Have a joyous and blessed New Year and remember to share the joy.