“A resident of a Hamas-dominated neighborhood, identifying himself only as Yousef for fear of reprisal by his neighbors, said Gazans would always back the winner, regardless of ideology. . . .
“‘We are a hungry people, we are with whoever gives us a bag of flour and a food coupon,’ said Yousef, 30. ‘Me, I’m with God and a bag of flour.’”1
s children of the Cold War, we grew up believing that the world was the battleground of competing political ideas. The great gray monster of Soviet Communism sprawled across our classroom maps, hungrily eyeing territories both east and west. China loomed large and red, mysterious and menacing. Flashpoints on our Weekly Reader maps highlighted proxy fights in Africa, Vietnam, El Salvador.
Our maps, both real and imagined, told us who was free and who was not, as though all Russians were convinced of the merits of totalitarian Communism, or all Britons believed in parliamentary democracy. We colored nonaligned nations green, wondering which way they would tip when nuclear push came to land-grab shove.
And then the world shifted, and we discovered that the paradigms of yesteryear couldn’t explain the new and painful realities. A wall fell, and millions of people became free—free to learn their new identities in a marketplace of ice-cold rubles, yuan and yen, euros and dollars. A billion energized Chinese powered a capitalist resurgence in a land still preaching socialist dogma and penalizing religious faith. The promises of the West—liberty and self-determination—grew hollow for the many falling through the culture’s “safety net.”
The new “ideas” for which fully half the world now waits are not ideas at all: a full stomach; clean water; protection from the ravages of weather; medicine to hold back surging epidemics.
Like Yousef, hundreds of millions of the world’s poor care little about political ideologies—and religious doctrines—unless they yield in potable water, adequate protein, and the hope that they or their children might live beyond the age of 40.
The struggle for survival typically precludes a patient meditation on the nuances of truth. A dying child seems much more urgent than a theory of atonement.
Adventists, with Christians everywhere, must take the world as we find it—hungry, dispossessed, not looking much beyond today. We cannot offer up our truths only to the half that is reasonably well-fed and rested, settled and secure. Adventist belief in the nearness of the Second Coming offers powerful hope for those who live as strangers and refugees in this world, but there is a truth even nearer for too many: unless bread is found, a child will die; unless medicine is shared, disease will spread; unless wells are dug, crops will fail and communities will disappear.
“The truth as it is in Jesus” is also the truth as it was lived by Jesus, for whom the hungry, the marginalized, and the homeless were the objects of His special care. They must yet become as important to His people as they were—and are—to Him. The 40,000 children who will die this day because of malnutrition and disease2 are at least as precious in His eyes as those whom dull disciples tried to keep away from Him in dusty Galilean towns. And though we are reluctant to acknowledge it, the righteous indignation once directed at His well-intentioned followers may yet be focused on the ones today who miss the Savior’s unchanging priorities:
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt. 25:44, 45, NRSV).*
Somewhere in your world, among the bills waiting to be paid, the laundry piled on the floor, the groceries needing to be shelved, you have a way to make a difference—today.
Write ADRA.3 Call Hope for Humanity.4 Share a gift with World Vision.5
*Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.
1Diaa Hadid, Associated Press, June 15, 2007.
3Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20905 or ADRA.org.
5P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063-9716 or WorldVision.org.
Bill Knott is editor of Adventist Review.