I will admit to not paying that much attention to news feeds, headlines, etc. for many years. That’s not necessarily a godly thing – as the oft quoted theologian Karl Barth once said “we have to read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other” in order to engage the world and our times with the gospel.
But with all the change that’s afoot in America and beyond, the debates surrounding immigration, wars and religiously motivated killings, ongoing poverty and abuses, to ignore headlines is pretty much impossible, and may prevent us from engaging our world with gospel-driven obedience and in certain cases lead us to miss or reject Jesus himself (Matt. 25:45).
With such a wide variety of news sources, many of them clearly reporting from one religious or political bias or another, how does one step back and consider these issues from a biblical, gospel perspective?
I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 11:1-10 the last several days and while it’s certainly not God’s whole word on the subjects noted (nor is my writing the only Christian viewpoint!), it seemed a good word, and hopefully a gospel word, so I share it with you.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse,
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
Jesus declares that he is making all things new (Revelation 21:5). But new doesn’t necessarily imply instantaneous, which in a fast food, instant-message world can be frustrating or missed outright (Isaiah 43:18-19: See, I am doing a new thing! … do you not perceive it?) Nor is ‘new’ necessarily unique (for instance, Jesus takes the elements historically used in the Jewish Passover meal and invests new meaning and promises that refer to his crucifixion and death).
Is it possible that as the “old” is cut down (be it economical, political, or religious), God is setting the stage for something new to grow out of it’s heritage and history? In other words, is the current change the last word on things we might have enjoyed or appreciated in the past? Or is our current experience of systems being “cut down” something God can use in the future for a new and fruitful expression of those things that were indeed good, true and beautiful?
“He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears…”
We already know this in regards to leadership from the time Samuel anoints a shepherd boy as king of Israel: “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
But how about our response to the foreigner, the alien, widow and orphan? Isaiah says we are to follow Jesus in judging righteously for the poor and needy – not in the spirit of the age – but through “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and of power, of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” that Jesus has made available to us all.
So much of the recent rhetoric and action seem to be driven by fear of the unknown (be it our unknown neighbour, or a less-than-certain future economically or politically). We see and hear through a spirit of fear rather than the Spirit of truth generously poured out by Jesus.
“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples;
the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.”
Mission as the Road to Peace
The future peace and rest that Isaiah declares is the result of the earth being “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). While some may denounce Christianity as being a force for evil and division, Isaiah sees a day when Jesus will draw all peoples to himself, a place of glorious rest and peace. It is in that hope that we continue our work here in Nanaimo – representing God’s Kingdom through gospel works paired with gospel words – partnering with Jesus as he continues to make all things new.