In my recent trip to the Congo with Dr. Bill Dunn and the team from Paul Carlson Partnership I was profoundly reminded of the commonality and therefore the communal responsibility we have in this world. It is easy to divide the world into various sets of two kinds of people. The haves and the have nots. The rich and the poor. The healthy and the sick. Hungry and satisfied. Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who do not. Yet as I reflect, I find myself drawn to the universal rather than the distinctive. There is a universal longing in our hearts. It is a longing for removal, renewal and reconciliation. Isaiah captures it this way:
¶ On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
¶ On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
¶ The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.
We all long for a removal of the things that bring poverty, sickness, death, prejudice and hunger. We all long for a renewal of love that overcomes greed, a faith that overcomes fear, a hope that rises above despair. We all long for a world without death, a future without shame and a joy that vanquishes tears. We all long for a world of people reconciled to their God, themselves and to each other. That world is coming. Hallelujah.
But that world is not here yet. The trip to the Congo taught me in a new way that the humanity we share is more profound than distinctives arising from uncommon ancestry or geography. The same range of brokenness and acts of reckless love are exhibited here and there. But the resources to express such reckless love are not evenly distributed. Material poverty does not mean human inferiority. Nor does material poverty equate to social and spiritual superiority. But the responsibility to each other is real and unsettling. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17) All of us on our trip brought “a little extra” and all of us left the extra behind. The reality that we cannot help everyone did not stop us from helping some.
What is next for us? What local and global expressions of interpersonal and intercultural partnership are we being called to? How do we live into our calling to love recklessly and live prudently and productively? How do we grow the courage to live in faith and love and hope and not in fear? I need your help. We truly can be “better together.”