In our Sunday School class this past week we got caught up in a discussion about world events and tragic situations that burden us. Tim and I recently read "A Long Way Gone -Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah, and followed that up by watching the movie "Blood Diamond." The plight of so many African countries where rebels rape, mutilate, and kill entire villages of people; where children are kidnapped, numbed, and trained to become thoughtless murderers puts a nauseating pit in my stomach.
One of our classmates has done extensive research into human trafficking where young women and girls are traded, sold, and abused as sex slaves right here in our own nation -the land of the free. Knots in the stomach.
Perhaps you saw the 20/20 special a while back on prostitution. Women, young and old, who sell their souls to the devil (or at least the local pimp) and sell themselves for as little as 25 dollars. Enough to get the next hit of crack, cocaine, heroine, anything that will dull the pain of reality. A life created by bad choices? In many cases perhaps. Well, why doesn't she just 'pick herself up by her bootstraps' and leave that lifestyle? Considering that I barely have the self-discipline to not eat an entire cheesecake in one sitting, I'm willing to assume it's just not that easy.
Add to these things the AIDS epidemic, malaria, children in Haiti eating dirt, war, pedophilia, natural disasters...whew. That'll bring your spirits down. So, what do we do? What is the biblical response? Well, we all agreed on one thing. The thing we CANNOT do. We CANNOT do nothing!
It is easy to become paralyzed by the overwhelming need. In this age of technology, it is easy to become desensitized and disinterested. It is even possible to run sporadically from urgency to urgency without ever effecting a lasting change. These are things we cannot do. We also can't allow ourselves to think that one person doesn't make a difference. We have to redefine greatness.
Throughout history great leaders have emerged for noble purposes. But no one can lead a great movement without committed followers. Some examples:
Abraham Lincoln emancipated the nations enslaved people -thousands of men and boys lost their lives so that Lincoln's proclamation could stand firm. They represented greatness.
Martin Luther King, Jr. powerfully and eloquently lifted a voice for his people, leading the charge of the Civil Rights movement -countless men and women marched in peaceful protest, and braved the sting of fire hoses, and endured the blistered and bloodied feet while walking miles to work in support of the bus boycott without ever being pictured on the six o'clock news or named in the history books. They embodied greatness.
If I redefine greatness, then I see that while I will never single-handedly end world hunger; I can effect change in one child's life through sponsorship.
I may not have pages of the history books dedicated to my work toward racial reconciliation but I can step out of my comfort zone to love someone who is not just like me and raise awareness of the issue among others.
I may not lead great crusades where people flood the aisles to embrace their Savior but I can faithfully share Him with those around me.
I don't write deep thoughts very often (not because I don't have them -watch it!) because I know that we all enjoy being entertained more than being challenged. BUT I can't help thinking --what if we cut the crap, lose the rhetoric and pretense, and just decided to look like Jesus; what would change? What would we become passionate about? Who would we become passionate about? Would we begin to see every opportunity to love our neighbors (from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth) as an opportunity for greatness?