“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21)
We are all familiar with the statistics:
24,000 people have died of hunger-related causes today, one person every four seconds. 18,000 of today’s deaths were children under the age of five, amounting to 6.5 million young child casualties per year. In Africa, more than 25 million people are infected with HIV, unable to work or feed their families, and 6,500 of these people have died of AIDS just today. 1.3 billion people–over one-fifth of the world’s population–lack access to clean water. Ten-percent of the world’s population makes more combined wealth than the remaining ninety-percent of the population combined. Even more, the poorest forty-percent of the world’s population maintains only five-percent of the entire world’s assets.*
With numbers so sickeningly staggering and the world’s poor facing such grim realities, it is easy to become frustrated and ask why God would allow things to get so ugly; all of creation is clearly groaning. In reality, it is not God who is to blame. We need to ask ourselves the same questions: How have we allowed such inequality to persist? How have we allowed our selfishness to rob so much from our neighbors? How can we consciously ignore the pain and suffering our lives of comfort engender onto our brothers and sisters, and still continue to live as we do? How can we call ourselves Christians? How will they know we are Christians? Have we begun to truly love?
If we continue to ignore these realities in our present day, then we are Lepers no-less numbed by our spiritual apathy, than those who could not feel their own limbs and became strangers to their own bodies. If we are truly the body of Christ, when one part suffers, all suffer with it. Where are those who are suffering? Are we yet among them? Are they yet among us? Jesus tells us, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). In the same way, when the body that should possess no division and equal concern for its members “is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). We rejoice in the knowledge that through Christ’s bitter suffering, death, and resurrection, we have all been united and invited to share in his freeing victory over the disease of sin and the darkness of the grave.
But how as Christians, do we handle the responsibility of this freedom and knowledge? Do our liberties oppress our neighbors or do our actions witness responsible stewardship of our freedom and the new life that is offered to all? Peter writes to the early church: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Gods grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
Can the church exist detached from reality? Jesus did not live separate from real people; we must admit to the inextricable connections that bind us all into one global brother and sisterhood. Near the conclusion of his poem “September 1, 1939,” W.H. Auden writes: “We must love one another or die.” We must love each other; I believe this is the only way we will ever see God’s kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our Savior suffered and died in this hungry world to pay the price for our sinful, selfish, greedy lives of excess. His blood offers us a sure hope of a kingdom where none will hunger again. His love not only gives us hope for a world to come, but gives us the motivation to care for the world we are in. Our response to such self giving love is to give ourselves away in acts of love as well. We have been given much, we have much to give.
*Statistics quoted from www.breadfortheworld.org and
The Better World Handbook (2007) by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler, and Brett Johnson