Responding to the World

We may disagree on what exactly is wrong with the world, but all of us can see that things aren’t right. The daily newspaper testifies to the widespread nature of our problems. Crime, corruption, poverty, addiction, disease, oppression and death lead the headlines. It often makes me sad, or angry, or both. But the world doesn’t need more angry people, so I’m working on avoiding outrage and maintaining my equanimity. My ability in this regard fluctuates, sometimes better, sometimes worse. Once again, “progress not perfection” is the helpful daily dictum.

In any event, this has also got me thinking in a general way about how people choose to respond to the disordered nature of reality. Perhaps because of the current social and political climate the first two things that occurred to me were “fighting” and “hopeless.” Many people are fighting to reshape society toward their preferred ends, while others have no hope of ever seeing their vision of culture and community accomplished. But of course not everybody is fighting; I’m not. And not everybody is hopeless; “not me” again.

Thinking along these two dimensions (and admittedly in a gross oversimplification of complex issues) I came up with the following 2×2 grid.

2015-12-10 14-33 page #0 (1)Here’s how I’m seeing the four quadrants

Fighting + Hope – This is the home of movements of all sorts. Movements aggregate like-minded individuals who agree on problems and solutions, and believe in their ability, working together, to change it. Their hope is in collective action. Think ISIS, or Greenpeace, or the various federal “wars” on poverty and cancer.

Fighting + Hopelessness – A bad combination and a recipe for isolated violence. Think Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber.

Accepting + Hopelessness – Another bad combination: “The world’s a mess, it’s going to get worse and there’s nothing anyone, especially me, can do about it.” Think Eeyore.

Accepting + Hope – This, I think, should be the home of the Christian. We know the world isn’t right, and we know it cannot be set right by human hands. Evil exists. No, human nature is not “good.” There is no getting better, or remaking the world to be better, on our own.

Yet we have hope, because we are not on our own. We trust in God, in and through whom all things are possible, and we live according to the Spirit. Thus we are (or should be) motivated to action, as individuals and communities. We can and should address the world’s brokenness and suffering, all the while understanding that “fighting” isn’t indicated as it is not we who can produce the outcomes we so earnestly desire.

What do you think?

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Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Romans 8:18-22 NLT

PS – Why not take another minute or two and read all of Romans Chapter 8 here? It was a blessing to me as I was preparing this post; perhaps it will be for you as well. – Pete