Nihilism looms large in our world. People despair of the future. Climate change, pandemics, right-wing extremist politics, obesity, consumerism, economic divides, conflict, and disaster, forced migration, and trauma. In an open letter to the Children of the world Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director, outlines reasons that lead to her worry about their future:
There is a yearning in the hearts of the Worlds’ children towards practical solutions to these global challenges. There are also reasons to be hopeful, claims Fore in her letter. Her practical and necessary interventions can be helpful. But aren’t always due to a broken world. Can there be an accompanying response? Possibly from a fellow weak and lowly group that are people of a certain hope and future. People who have faith in a person to bring about hopeful interventions.
Dr. Hwa Yung, Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, claims that the fastest-growing churches (predominately in the Majority World) are strongly supernaturally oriented. There is a desire to experience the presence of a loving, just God who will act in power to change the earthly reality of downtrodden lives. This is not a new longing. From ancient historical oppression of Hebrews in slavery to a despotic ruler, to peoples crying out for a messiah under countless invasions and genocide.
The Bible does not ignore the groans of the helpless. The prophetic book of Isaiah implores Judah and Jerusalem, God’s people in His holy city, to:
Learn to do good/right; seek justice. Rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:17).
At the same time the Bible speaks of the righteous rescuers and defenders as being humble, gentle, peaceful, and persecuted (Matthew 5:3-10). This is in line with the paradox of the Bible which speaks even of the foolishness of God being wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).
God hears the cries of the oppressed children of this world by sending His Son Jesus as a child and a suffering servant to come with perfect love and goodness to proclaim God’s compassion. God does not act in half measures. He is fully committed allowing His Son to shamefully die on an agonising cross to confront the oppression and darkness of the world. The death of Jesus meets the pain and suffering of the world at the crux point. Hope and life are then revealed fully and graciously poured out abundantly to all in the reality of the rising of Jesus from the dead.
In the resurrection life of Jesus hope and light are possible in a dark, hurting world. At times, the followers of Jesus may be weak, considered foolish and lowly by worldly powers, but they act with great impact because they trust in the God of mercy and concern. The miracle and supernatural presence of God by His Spirit is known in the human care towards the orphan and the widow. Humbly sharing food, clean water, a safe welcome, freedom, crying and rejoicing, education, and healing. These are the signs of God’s kingdom bringing life.
Read Henrietta Fore's letter in full here