The world is full of heartbreaking challenges. There is a high probability that if you have the ability to be reading this blog, your life is at least somewhat insulated from these very same challenges. Two-thirds of the women, and 17% of all people, in the world could not read this blog if they had the technological capability to do so; they are illiterate. This is not just an educational handicap or a societal disadvantage. Illiteracy is intimately linked with poverty. So while one might ignore the issue of illiteracy and deem it to be someone else’s problem, we simply cannot ignore the call of Jesus to care for the poor. In this way the illiterate are very much “our problem”; to say it better, they are our mission.
Nearly half the world earns less than $2 (US) per day. Many own only the clothes on their back and nothing more. Many others have no shoes. Jesus admonished us to clothe the naked. As Richard Stearns notes in his excellent book, “The Hole in Our Gospel”, ones such as these are our modern day “naked”. While they may not be literally naked, they have no means to buy clothing or to provide adequate shelter for their families. They are exposed to the elements and are vulnerable to the hostilities of the world around them. They are indeed naked in a very real, if not literal, sense. These too are part of our mission.
While slavery may have been eradicated long ago in the country where you live, make no mistake in knowing that it continues to thrive around the world. Children as young as five (and younger still by some reports) are subjected to the horror that is human trafficking, forced to exchange the innocence of their youth for a life that no human should ever have to endure. Those lucky enough to escape the sex trade are often sold by their own families into lives of indentured servant hood, forced to work eighteen hour days under horrid conditions and with little food. The terms of their purchase are structured in such a way so as their families can never afford to redeem them, or “buy them back.” We know this is happening; we can never claim that we didn’t have any idea. The injustices inflicted upon the weakest and most vulnerable among us, our children, are atrocious and must be abolished. Since we are called to put an end to injustice, those in slavery are also part of our mission.
The number of single mothers in the world is growing at a staggering rate. Women seeking love at any cost, widows of war time casualties, and those who have conceived children at the abusive hands of others all have one thing in common: the need for love, stability and hope. These women often work tirelessly to provide for their children only to have all their efforts wiped out by a single illness or layoff. Many of these families are simply one misfortune away from being homeless, hungry or destitute. James said that part of true religion was to look after the widows. They, and the single mom’s among us, are our mission as well.
I could sadly go on for hours discussing the tragedies in our world that break the heart of God. This is not what He had in mind at creation. He desired a world of beauty and purity, a world where the created were intimately acquainted with their Creator. Jesus came to earth to begin the mission of restoring our world to its original state. He came to begin the process of making His kingdom a reality on earth. We are heirs to His kingdom, and heirs to His mission. We are called to feed the poor, to clothe the naked, to right the wrongs of injustice, and to care for the widows. The extent of the problems facing us is staggering; the depth of depravity we must wade into is overwhelming. There is so much heartache, where do we possibly begin?
We begin with one. Each one of us possesses the ability to change the world for one person. By many estimates there are two billion Christians in the world. Even if those estimates are half wrong, that still leaves one billion Christians on earth. If each Christian would simply change the world for one person, and then each of those now two billion Christians would in turn change the world for just one other person, we could eradicate poverty, hunger, nakedness and slavery in relatively short order. This is where the rubber hits the road; each of us must actually be willing to sacrifice and follow the lead of Jesus in order to change the world for someone else. Are you up to the task? Will you follow Christ regardless of the sacrifice? Will you love someone for the simple reason that Christ loves them? We can truly change the world one person at a time. The mission is clear, the challenge is large. The solution is known and the solution is you.