Conflicts and crises seem to be escalating across the globe. Maybe some of you feel as I do: I feel helpless, like a small, insignificant little wheel in the machinery of time, hardly the kind of part that could make a difference. Resignation takes hold, or perhaps a growing sense of apathy towards the needs of this world.
In recent weeks I‘ve spoken with a lot of people about current crises such as the Ukrainian conflict, the Palestinian conflict, IS terror, and the increasing radicalization in some African countries. I’ve had conversations about the living conditions of thousands of modern-day slaves, many of them children, working at production sites in Asia to meet our insatiable Western demand for cheap products, and about the increasing waves of refugees finding their way to Europe.
In these conversations I’ve encountered true reflection and real concern, but also a lot of populist jargon, blinding patriotism and a “whatever works best for me” mentality. Then there are those who try to isolate themselves, avoiding any unpleasant thoughts, or who revolve entirely around their own little world. These encounters, these issues tend to lead me back to the roots of my faith: to Jesus and his love for this world – and for me. And this love challenges me, opens my eyes, gives me strength and cascades into every aspect of my life.
Jesus established a whole new culture! This „Jesus Culture“ is seen in the amazing kind of love that he himself lived: caring, showing mercy and respect, backed by a radical willingness to refrain from retaliation and to forgive. Jesus, who chose not to wield power, but instead to become a servant. Jesus, challenging us to adopt this new culture as our own.
We need a culture of love that strives to overcome barriers and reach out to others. A culture of appreciation and of mercy. A culture devoid of sarcasm and cynicism towards those who think, believe or feel differently, and that is willing to confront otherness in a spirit of love and humility. A life of love is not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s the only effective and lasting way to solve and/or avoid conflicts or to conduct constructive dialogue. Without this kind of love, conflict – whether it’s between marriage partners, within the family, among colleagues or between peoples – will always lead to injury, revenge, retaliation and separation. Hasn’t history taught this clearly enough?
Jesus lived this radical love! He first accepted people as they were, with all their rough edges, mistakes, shortcomings and shortsighted views. And so people felt accepted, felt free to draw closer to him. His words are still true today, and still true for me: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
In coming closer to Jesus, through experiencing what it means to be loved and accepted so unconditionally, we and those around us begin to open our lives to Jesus, to trust him, believe in him, and find peace – to discover faith that isn’t based on outward religious form, but on the unconditional love and acceptance of God. It’s faith that did and does enable believers to turn their lives around and change, step by step, living a new life.
The New Testament challenges us to become a „new person“: „You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the new self, created to be like God….“ (Ephesians 4:22-24)
„Therefore, as God´s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace“. (Colossians 3:12-15)
„Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ“! (Romans 13:14)
For anyone who really and truly wants to follow Jesus, there’s absolutely no way around this! Jesus challenges us to live a life of radical love. Without it, our Christian witness remains a shallow, false-front affair that leaves nearly no impression on this world. And so we’re put to task, to see to it that this new “self”, this “Jesus culture” in our lives can bud and grow, rooting and branching its way into every aspect of our lives. This doesn’t just happen by itself!
We need a movement of people who have been touched and changed by this incomparable love of Jesus. People who don’t get caught up in their religiosity and hide in their churches and denominations, but instead allow Jesus to give them a warm, feeling heart of flesh: a heart that pulsates, beats, and sets them in motion. People who are ready to let their lives be a source of this deep-reaching love of Jesus in our world today.
Paul writes in Romans 12:1: Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. God’s changing, forgiving, healing love needs you, your readiness, your creativity, your gifts, your passion in order to reach and to change this world.
It’s time to act – love needs to express itself through action; otherwise, it isn’t love! Use every opportunity you have: what could you do, specifically, to be a reconciler and a bridge-builder in the world’s major conflicts (or wherever you are)? Stand by one another, even across borders. Find creative ways to show respect, love and mercy. Love is creative! Take a clear stand for reconciliation, the only thing that leads to lasting change! Pray for peace. Don’t just watch and wait, get involved! There are so many nice things waiting to surprise us when we’re willing to step out in love.
And then all of a sudden we notice that our “little wheel” in the machinery of time has become a wheel that sets things in motion: mired relationships show new signs of life, gridlock loses its grip, separation gives way to reunification, and trust begins to grow once more. The world begins to change – through you!
More? Join in the discussion in our new Facebook group “Love opens eyes”.