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by Jacob Ninan
Wherever we look, there are so many problems. We are all painfully conscious of problems which we personally face, and if we read the newspapers or watch TV we get to know about different types of problems people face all over the world. Some of these problems are of global proportions. One thing we can see very clearly, if only we will think about it, is that most problems in the world are only becoming worse. In many cases they are reaching the level of being chaotic, and in some cases they seem to have crossed the point of no return.
There are many people who are actively involved in trying to bring solutions for all these problems, by trying to understand the nature of the problems better and seeking to overcome them. It is inevitable that most people focus on specific aspects of people’s problems because collectively they seem beyond repair. Some people try to eradicate poverty, some try to raise the levels of education, some try to improve health and living conditions, and so on. But what we see is that in spite of many advances being made in all these areas, problems are only becoming worse.
The Christian worldview which we get from the Bible tells us that there is a root cause for all the problems of the world. It is the selfishness of man and his consequent defiance of God’s laws that have resulted in all the chaos we see around us today. Since sin was the original cause of all problems in this world, God’s remedy was to deal with sin at the root. The one and only solution God has offered for all the problems of the world is His Son Jesus Christ.
Like a river that got polluted with poisonous industrial waste near its source going on to spoil everything along its way, the sinfulness of man has affected everything else around him. Everything he touches gets defiled, corrupted, distorted and degenerated. The solution for the problem of the contaminated river is obviously not to construct decontamination units at all user locations but to remove the pollution at its original location.
Certainly there is need to address different problems in the short and long terms. Short term solutions of the problems are necessary to mitigate the severity of their effects on people. But long term solutions can be found only when we try to deal with the root of the problems. What many people have found to their dismay when they have sacrificially made efforts to do different things to alleviate the problems they see around them is that their solutions did not last. When the ‘missionaries’ and other ‘benefactors’ were around, people seemed to show some inclination to make changes in their behaviour, but when these benefactors went away, these people turned back to their old ways. What this has proved time and time again is that these changes have not reached the level of the roots but were only superficial.
This is how things work in this world. Some people may bring about reforms and others may impose rules, laws and regulations. People may seem to follow these regulations as long as they are being watched, but when they realise they can avoid being caught or penalised, they revert to their old ways again. Governments may try to control people’s behaviour, but until people’s hearts are changed, no lasting effect will be there.
God knew this all along. But He knew that people would not understand immediately if He told them. So He went through a process of giving people the Law, telling them what He wanted them to do and also warning them of what would happen if they did not obey Him. But this did not work. Even though the people promised that they would do all that He had told them (Exod.24:3), none of them did; actually no one could (Gal.3:11). After making His point, God came out with the new covenant and made the old covenant obsolete (Heb.8:13).
Jesus was sent to save us people from our sins (Matt.1:21;1Tim.1:15). As long as people are not saved from sins—not just by forgiveness but also by cleansing or deliverance—no amount of action to remove the problems of this world can be permanent or thorough. People try adding new laws and improving education, health facilities, living conditions, etc. But the more knowledgeable people become, they use that knowledge to do evil and to manipulate others. The more healthy people become, the more invulnerable they feel and they seek to seek for more pleasure. The real problems of man and society have not gone away but only become worse.
On the contrary, when men like John Wesley preached, people began to get transformed, giving up their old sinful ways. When people gave up their drinking, pub owners had to close down their business. What the Law could not achieve, grace did. What laws of prohibition could not bring about, grace that changed people’s lives from inside accomplished. This is God’s way. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son” (Rom.8:3).
Many missionaries who came to India have started schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals, shelter homes for women, etc., because they were moved by the love of God for the people. But their goal was not just to improve the conditions of the people here, but also that people might get an opportunity to see Christ in action. Over the years, while many of these institutions continue to do their work and make a short term contribution to society, the focus on the Christian witness seems to have been forgotten. As a result, while the social work continues, its effect on people does not last for eternity.
Humanitarian work is not the monopoly of Christians. When an earthquake or tsunami takes place, thousands of people of all kinds of faith pitch in to help, moved by feelings of compassion or pity. But we Christians have been entrusted by God with a worldview that includes eternity. Even when we do things that are needed for life on earth, our eyes look on at eternity. We are not satisfied with merely helping people tide over their immediate needs, but we are looking for opportunities to bless people for eternity. We realise that mere social work cannot have eternal benefits, and that people need to be born again by the Spirit of God in response to the Gospel in order to have a part in an eternal life with God. This cannot happen if our social work is not coupled with the sharing of the Gospel of Christ. Without transforming the lives of the people through the Gospel, the people we serve will not receive an eternal blessing. We will also get frustrated in the end when we see that all the work we did sacrificially did not last!
In summary, since all the problems of this world have originated from man’s sin, the bottom line is that the solution for all problems must begin with the Gospel of Christ. Many problems can be alleviated in the short time through various helpful programmes. Much humanitarian work is being done towards this even by people of different faiths. But we who have experienced the power of the Gospel and understood its long term (eternal) potential need to work along with the Gospel in whatever we do.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, September 2016
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