Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared on ChristianHeadlines.com, May 20, 2014.
News, foreign and domestic, is grim more often than not.
A Sudanese court sentences a woman to death for believing in Christ. Hundreds of schoolgirls are kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Nigeria. A Turkish mine explosion that kills nearly 300 men. Russia seizes the Crimea and drools over Ukraine. China's one-child policy purrs along its assembly line of death. An estimated 900 million people living with chronic hunger.
At home, here is an abbreviated list of what we have become used to dealing with: Abortion, pornography, pedophilia, human trafficking, drug and alcohol addictions, sexually-transmitted diseases, fatherlessness, divorce, promiscuity, cohabitation, the redefinition of marriage, homelessness, failing schools, hungry children, endemic joblessness and under-employment, "transgendered" military personnel, and various infectious diseases, psychological illnesses, and psychiatric conditions.
(If I left off your favorite bane, sorry; of the listing of pathologies there is no end).
No one serious about following Jesus can help but be burdened by these vivid witnesses to the torrent of evils swirling around us, at home and abroad. The needs are many and great. Sin seeks to rival God for infinitude.
Here are three observations about how Christians can respond to the crushing weight of human wrongdoing:
Recognize that evil is intractable. We will never do away with it. This should not be a spur to complacency but rather should safeguard us from the lie that evil can be decimated permanently and comprehensively. False expectations, once unmet, create ennui and disillusionment, which lead to withdrawal and the concession of hard-won ground to the Enemy and his minions, demonic and human.
The mature Christian will recognize that his efforts to advance the love and holiness of Christ in a fallen world will never be sufficient or final. Instead, he will rejoice that within the context of his personal and financial limitations, he can make a substantial difference in a couple of areas and a relative handful of lives for years at a time. Ambitious but realistic expectations in the field of personal Christian ministry and philanthropy are critical.
Recognize that opportunities for doing good are innumerable. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and the ACCORD Network both list hundreds, even thousands of Christian ministries addressing everything from disaster relief to religious persecution. Our churches provide myriad opportunities for ministry, from neighborhood evangelism and urban outreach to clothing orchards and senior care.
Not only are the needs profound, but the effective and Christ-honoring organizations, ministries, and programs that address them are extensive.
Recognize that your finitude is empowering, not enervating. The fact that you cannot do everything does not mean that you cannot do some things and do them in a manner worthy of your Lord. He gives us the privilege of being used by Him in specific ways and for specific tasks.
Ask God to lead you into one or two ministries into which you can pour your time and energy. He will do this through circumstance, your access to various ministries, an awareness of what you do well (grounded in a clear assessment of your abilities), the counsel of Godly men and women (most especially your spouse and your church leadership), and the burdens He lays on your heart.
Most supremely, He will guide you as you study His Word and develop ministry priorities based on it. For some, this might mean turning to full-time vocational ministry. For others, it might mean taking the divorced mom and her children down the street out for ice cream when you take your own.
Pain for the needs of the world must not become so spiritually and emotionally tyrannical that it cripples us, on the one hand, nor should we let it produce callous indifference as a defense mechanism on the other.
Christianity Today's Amy Julia Becker recently wrote a perceptive piece entitled, "We Can't Care About Everyone All the Time" (http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2014/may/we-cant-care-about-everyone-all-time.html). Her conclusion in the article is so good I conclude with it here:
"As a Christian, as a member of the body of Christ, the hands and feet of the work God is doing in the world, I must care about someone somewhere. But if I try to care about everyone everywhere I lose sight of the particular people to whom God has called me. If I try to care about everyone everywhere I lose sight of God's overarching care for us all. God is God and I am not. For that reason I will continue to let horrific news about all sorts of violence and terror in our world roll past me. And I will continue to weep and advocate and give money and spend time and energy caring for a few of the vulnerable ones among us, beginning with my children, extending to my community, and then branching out into the world in very limited and particular ways."