We live in a troubled world. The earth’s population figure has passed the 4 billion mark. By the year 2000, just twenty one years away, our planet will hold 6.2 billion people, and according to World Bank projections nine out of every ten human beings will live in the Third World. The great tragedy is that the vast majority of these people will be condemned to a subhuman existence unless something radical is done.
Having lived in certain parts of the world has convinced me that this fragile planet of ours is now in worse political, economic, social and spiritual turmoil than ever before. I am further convinced that if any single institution can truly minister to the physical and spiritual needs of this hungry, thirsty, weary and lonely world, it is the church – the church centered and deeply rooted in the boundless love and compassion of the revolutionary Jesus of the Gospels, the Word mad e flesh.
The two opening words of the Lord’s prayer, “Our Father,” should sensitize all Christians to the agonies and struggles of our brothers and sisters both nearby and abroad. It should make unthinkable a divided church or a divided Christ. Yet the Christian church is one of the most divided institutions today, and this to me is another of the great tragedies of our times.
The unity of the church finds its root in the heart of God Himself. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” The fact that the Son of God shed His blood for every one of the billions of human beings living today is mind-boggling. How heartbreaking to Him is a divided Body!
Too long have theologians debated little differences that tear apart the Body of Christ. When the impoverished and oppressed people of the world cry out for bread and for the Bread of Life, what really matters is the lordship of Jesus Christ. I believe that Christ’s virgin birth, atoning death and resurrection are doctrines that all true Christians must hold to. But so is doctrine of the oneness of the Body.
In a remote Indonesian village I saw a practical example. The devastation of an earthquake deprived the villagers of food. A Protestant minister there had access to emergency supplies donated by various agencies, but he refused to release the food to the people until they attended a time of praise at his church.
A Jesuit arrived on the scene, however, and sensed what was going on. He went to minister. As soon as the minister opened his door, and before any words could be exchanged, the Jesuit embraced his brother in Christ. The minister was speechless. The Jesuit then introduced himself and after a brief conversation said, “My brother, let us forget the little differences between us, and remember that you and I serve the same Lord. Let us ask ourselves what Jesus would have done in this situation.”
The minister stared at the floor for a while, then lifted his eyes and said to the Jesuit, “My brother, I never thought of it this way. Come, let us go to the people with the food.”