Ed Stetzer tweeted in June, “In the last 5 days: 700 refugees drowned off Greece, 9000 babies were aborted in U.S., and 68 were shot in Chicago…and a gorilla dominated the news.”
There is this subtle sin that has crept in the world and grown in power the past several years. Sadly, the Church has not been immune to it. What is it? The subtle deadly sin of disengagement.
Why are we so disengaged?
Let’s look at what has happened in recent history. In the last ten years the Iphone, Ipad and cloud computing have taken the world by storm. We are more connected in more ways than any, ANY other generation in the world…. ever. We are more interconnected as a human race than we ever have been before. But the world has changed in other ways as well. More fighting, more wars, more tension, more offense, more distraction and more taking sides. I wish I could say this was only outside the Church, but you and I both know it is happening in every religion, every country and in every nation. And yes, that includes those who are following Jesus.
I’m thankful and grateful for modern technology. I am. I can send videos to my friends back home in the States in milliseconds. I can communicate, in real time, with anyone I want no matter where they are in the world with an internet connection. I have files stored in a server thousands of miles away from where I live. I can listen to any music I want, watch any movies or shows I want, and keep track of how many minutes of sleep I get a day. I can publish a book, on my own, and have it sent worldwide in a few hours. It’s unbelievable.
And it’s distracting. Simultaneously, we are the most engaged and the most disengaged generation in history. We are the most engaged- engaged with knowledge that is. But, completely disengaged with reality. Disengaged with life, people, living human beings. Disengagement, it seems, is the sin of this modern era.
Second, it seems this way especially when looking at current political circus in the States, it’s clear that there is something darker going on. There is an underlying idea that the world is going to Hell, everything is falling apart, but we as Christians will be ok. The idea that we need to circle up the wagons, grab our guns and protect ourselves. And at the same time, held in tension, there’s this idea that we’ll be ok, so let those who don’t know Christ die knowing that their eternity is uncertain…as long as we’re ok. It’s the, “I’m in, you’re not; I win, you lose. Sayonara,” mentality that for whatever reason the Church just can’t shake. I’m not saying that everyone in the Church believes this. But there are those who do, and no matter how small they may be in number, they seem to be the loudest.
How have others been engaged?
We have disengaged from the “least of these.” If we’ve done it to the abandoned, forgotten ones in the world, we’ve done it to Christ, Matthew 25. But there are examples of engagement.
God reveals to us that we are to be active participants. Think of Esther in the Old Testament standing up for her people before the king. Think of four simple fishermen who were content doing just that the rest of their lives until someone showed them the Truth. Peter, Andrew James and John became active participants in the world and did not sit by and let it fall apart. In recent history we can think of so many more….Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Lyman Stewart, Amy Charmichael and more. These people did not say “Sayonara” to the world. They became actively engaged in being a part of its redemption history.
Taking an honest look at ourselves
Let’s look at the Church in a couple of areas. First is social justice. To be fair, we are considered aliens in the world. So, it is hard to look around and not allow the thankfulness of our salvation in Christ to turn into some sort of prideful sneer towards someone who does you wrong. It’s hard not to feel some sort of weird justification when something bad or hard happens to someone who was hurtful to you. We want justice but only in those things we deem important. When we look at social justice or fighting for justice to those oppressed innocently, it seems that the Church in many ways does this well. And I am so grateful for this.
But in other areas, we as the Church fall way short. Even now I hear from fellow believers in my home country, this attitude of “Well, that is unfortunate for you. You should work harder, be stronger, get over that, move on.” We fail to see that many things in life aren’t up to us. Many things aren’t something we can just get over or work harder at. They aren’t things we can immediately, from out of no where, become stronger in. Many of us are completely powerless to either situations or privileged people.
Go to any Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Over-Eaters Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery or any other recovery type of meeting and you will soon see people who are unable to just “get over it.” I honestly believe there is no difference between the ones who attend those meetings and everyone else except for one thing- the ones who attend those meetings know how helpless they are and how much they are in need of a Savior. The other group of people would probably have a hard time admitting that.
Second is the area of knowing versus doing. David Fitch in his book “The End of Evangelicalism?” writes, “the ‘inerrant Bible’ allows us to believe we have the truth while at the same time remaining distant from actually engaging in it as a way of life. We assent unabashedly to the perfect book without it truly meaning anything. It acts as an “ideological fantasy” wherein we live in a projected world where we can believe we have the truth, but in real life have to make little or no changes to the way we live.”
I admit that I have given give into the selfish desire to become judgmental and disengaged at times as well. Knowing I have the Truth and no one else does gives me a sense of power and of judgment. It gives the idea that because I know the Truth, there’s no reason for me to change. Knowledge somehow gives us power and control…. we think. We are still grasping for control and think we can do a better job than He can. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be people burning out, falling from moral failure, blindly sticking with one political group, having more protests about what they are against rather than what they are for, among other things. But knowledge doesn’t cause us to become engaged.
And third, the area of spectators versus participants. In recovery groups there’s a level of grace towards one another that is unmatched to almost any other group of believers that I’ve ever been in. Why? Because those in recovery all understand that they are in the same sinking ship in this world. Citizens of the world or citizens of heaven, we were all born into this fallen place. It’s what we choose to do with this time while here that counts. Giving grace and living a life of honesty, vulnerability and forgiveness allows us to transcend the boundary between disengaged spectators and participators. Spectators watch the world fall apart like they’re watching a movie in a theater. Participators are the ones who are scratched, beaten and bloody because they decide jump in the pit and help those who need it.
What do we do now?
So, how do we stop this and start becoming engaged with the world?
First, spend time in reflection asking that the Spirit reveal to you areas in which you have been disengaged. If you think you haven’t been, that’s a good sign that you probably have. Then as those areas come to mind, seek forgiveness. This is not a one time reflection, but an ongoing one.
Second, for those who have lived a life of engagement listed earlier, and the countless others, it came down to a decision. A decision to become active. Willing to face the pain and suffering around them and become “one” with those in the midst of it. They went against the trends of the culture they were in. Becoming engaged with the world is starting to see faces, eyes, of those suffering. Not just read headlines.
Third, it begins with looking around your world and finding the suffering that is around you. Looking up from your phone, laptop and tablet, and seeing the world for what it really is. Not the digital world we have become too comfortable living in.
Fourth, becoming engaged starts with being honest with your own emotions and acknowledging the feelings of those around you. Just like Christ did. The women at the well, the oppression of the merchants in the temple, the lame man unable to get to angelic pool to become healed just to name a few. He empathized by being honest with what He had gone through in order to engage with those in pain around Him. He wept.
By becoming engaged with the world and not just informed about it, we are living out that second commandment of loving our neighbor like our self; and, almost on divine accident, the first like it, loving our Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind. May we be known as the generation that engaged the world for Christ.
be blessed today