I’m weary of bad news. The issues and anger of our time are growing faster than bread mold.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34). Whatever fills a person is going to overflow. It’s only a matter of time.
That’s exactly what’s happening now. Sin usually hidden under a veneer of civility is shedding its clothes and coming out in plain view.
The most alarming development is how easily Christians get sucked into this vortex, too. Those of us not throbbing with rage find ourselves saddened and tired. We flinch at the newest headline and somewhere deep down wonder, if only for a moment, whether following Jesus is relevant in any of the madness.
For sure it’s a pathetic panorama—outrage and murder, constant race-baiting, terrorism, political bickering, deep moral confusion, plus the endless barrage of mean-spirited sentiments written by anyone with internet access, and all of it framed by a culture that doesn’t like truth.
Summed up, the whole mess seems an unstoppable force of dark nature, a black hole, and the Christian life itself no more than a shiny piece of debris floating in that maelstrom.
We’re not the first to feel this challenge. Back in the wild, wild world of the first century, a lot more was going on than we typically think.
When Jesus came, political intrigue was dominating every high level administration. False prophets peddled their messages to naïve religious folk. The Jewish populace lived under the oppressive tension of what might happen if they offended the Roman superpower. Some Jews mentally checked out and sided with their Roman occupiers. Others resisted with militant zeal.
Add to this recipe the religious extremes of Pharisees and Saducees, which embodied the worst elements of legalism and erroneous teaching. Stir in the drama of bitter hatred, with little or no accountability to balance it. Layer it with a thick bed of garden variety sinners. Then broil for about a hundred years.
There. That’s the first century.
Now go in for a deep zoom to thirteen men. Jesus and twelve disciples herald the arrival of the kingdom of God. They are infinitesimal dots of light—pin holes on a massive eight thousand square mile sheet of dark poster board (which becomes even bigger when we factor in the rest of the Roman Empire).
Thirteen men. Tens of millions of people. Vast distances. No modern communication technology.
It’s easy to get swallowed up in a picture like this, to feel as though nothing you could ever say or do would count.
Jesus solved it by saying to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mt. 9:37-38).
Grasp the imagery here. A crop of human souls is ripening, and coming closer to desiring God on this mega-field of earth. Jesus could have waved His hand and mounted a giant television screen in the sky, where He broadcasted the gospel to them simultaneously. Or, He could have run around like The Flash and talked to everyone.
But He Himself submitted to the limitations of this world in things like limited time, limited energy, and spatial limitations. Although He worked many miracles for the sake of others, He never behaved as a god here on the ground to make life and labor easier for Himself.
Instead, he saw the solution as being a multiplication of manpower. He instructed the disciples to pray that God would send more workers out, typical true believers in Jesus sent in droves with the message of forgiveness of sins and new life in His name.
Most churches are populated with people who feel like they haven’t been sent anywhere. They go a lot of places, but they’re not conscious of being sent. Jesus told us to pray that would change. He wants to say to all believers, “You’re not going in to the office this morning. I’m sending you there.” “You’re not going to class. I’m sending you there.”
Yes, you’ve been prayed for. In fact, your presence has been requested out in the harvest where it is hoped you will bring good news. It doesn’t always mean oversea assignments like the guy with the pith helmet in Jababaland, but it definitely has to do with anywhere human beings congregate—work, play, family, neighborhoods, social gatherings, friendships, early morning coffee shops, hanging out.
Our country is a big diverse place of problems. And yet in the U.S. alone we can conservatively estimate 30 million truly regenerate believers in Christ. That’s a decent sized farming co-op, big enough to handle any harvest.
What would happen if we all accepted the call?
(To be continued)
Photo Credits – Charles Angrand