If I saw the world the way Jesus does, would it change my heart towards those I can so easily ignore? Would I fully realize that there are millions who I am destined to worship alongside of in eternity who do not look, speak, or act like me? Would I grasp the scope of a battle that is being waged for the hearts and souls of men, women, and children, and then would I be willing to run towards the fight, and not away from it?
These are the hard questions I am facing right now, and as I submit to the One who died for my salvation, I begin to understand that I don't own the right to look away from those that He loves.
Yesterday, I came across a photo compilation on the ForeignPolicy.com website that is simply titled, "Postcards From Hell." As the site says, the editors have spent the past five years using a battery of indicators to rank the most failed nations of the world. Among the sixty that are compiled here you will find the names of states that are both familiar and vague, and though this is by no means a comprehensive list of the world's struggling countries, the sheer scope of it is frankly overwhelming.
Why am I going there? I wondered this myself as I clicked through photo after photo. Read through the descriptions and you'll see a pattern that goes far beyond the tragedy that is suffered through drought, famine, or natural disasters. You don't have to look too long to see a global landscape that is riddled with paranoid ruthless dictators, pirates, drug runners, warlords, and hoards of religious zealots driven by doctrine that is fueled by carnage and bloodshed. This list could go on, but at the heart of it we can easily begin to understand that something is at work here that goes beyond what our eyes can see.
Suddenly Paul's words come alive as he tells us that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12)
Sin's curse is at the heart of each of these stories, and though we have the luxury of turning away from them, Paul implores us no to, saying that the Lord's "intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:10-11)
As followers of Christ we are called to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10) and declare his glory to the nations (Mark 13:10).
What can we do? Though these pictures might indeed personify images of hell on earth, we are assured that there is a heaven and that God's grace extends to these nations as well as those that didn't make the list.
I would ask that you would join with me as I pray for two of these countries each day, covering the whole list in a month's time and asking that the light of God's word would spread through each nation. Beyond that, I would encourage anyone who is willing to pray that prayer to then ask God to show them what He would have them do to advance His kingdom in the midst of these dark places. I don't know what this will ultimately mean for each person, but in our obedience we can be assured of a truth that will never pass away.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.