Hope Springs Eternal?by Nick Kersten
Our hope as Christians is that God will make this world right one day, undoing the damage of thousands of years of human sin. We trust that God has saved us from our own sin, and that one day, he will likewise redeem all of fallen creation. Until then, we are left on the earth amid the fray. Ironically, many problems in our world come about when humans try to be "like God" and end up treating each other in ungodly ways instead.
Yesterday, the nation celebrated the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. King was a Baptist pastor, and the son of a Baptist pastor, and all of his work in the Civil Rights movement was informed by his faith and hope in a God who would one day redeem all creation. But Martin Luther King, Jr. was not content to sit back and wait for God's redemption--he also believed that God called on him as a Christian to stand against sin and injustice (specifically segregation and racism) through non-violent means.
In response to these activities, King was jailed in 1963. While there he penned a letter to his fellow clergymen now known as the "Letter from Birmingham Jail." In the letter, King passionately calls for the clergy (and all Christians) to stand against the injustice endemic in the segregationist movement. But King also gave a strong example to all Christians about how we should deal with the sin in our midst, especially our sins that affect "the least of these"--the mistreated and downtrodden of our own times.
In honor of the celebration of MLK, Jr. Day, Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries wrote yesterday (in an article entitled, "The Face in a Crowd of Nobodiness") about how we should respond to the vast need we see all around us. After quoting from King's letter, Carattini writes:
God calls on his people to be his hands and feet (and his face) in the world. God's temporary solution to the fallout of sin in the world is to use those he has redeemed to bring healing and hope. Inactivity, sloth and isolation are a rejection of our Lord. All of us encounter people in need of mercy, justice, time and love, and it is our calling as Christians to respond to those needs with the same forgiveness, mercy, love, generosity, patience and provision our God has made for us through Jesus Christ. May we all work to provide hope to the world through our faith and service to Jesus Christ.
When Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, he did not say it with the despair of one who looks around and sees how vast is the need and poverty of a hurting world. He said it knowing every face in the immense crowd of nobodiness, knowing every name we would try not to learn when the pain of others becomes unbearable. He said it living in time, yet conscious of eternity, showing us the mindset he longed for us to hold: A non-answer is very clearly an answer. "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Matthew 12:30).
The cries of the oppressed and brokenhearted will continue to resound though we sit in comfortable apathy and languid affluence, and the call of Christ can be heard in the midst of it all, urging us to set aside all that entangles and follow after him. The poor and the downcast will always be with us, and where we will allow ourselves to see, it will be overwhelming. They need justice, they need mercy, and they need our time--even as Jesus seems to tell us that it is we who are most in need of them. "The poor you will always have with you," he said as if it were a promise that he too would be near. He made the comment knowing that throughout most of history the Son of God would not be with us in the flesh. But in the cup of cold water delivered to the least of these, in the reaching out to the downtrodden and oppressed, he is indeed there among us--the hand extended to the one hurting, and the eyes of the one in need--destroying the notion of nobodiness two faces at a time.