My granddaughter Kara just returned from a trip to Nicaragua with her college choir and was stunned by poverty unlike any she ever experienced. During a visit to a small hospital in Managua they saw patients crowded into rooms that held 10 at a time, many on beds without sheets. Particularly distressing was the realization that despite such deplorable conditions these were the “lucky” ones able even to receive care.
Our hearts cannot help but be burdened by such stories, but what is the answer? Years ago, I was on a trip to South America that similarly awakened me to the tremendous poverty in our world. I was overwhelmed by it. I could not imagine any amount of money ever addressing such an ocean of need.
Through a friend I came to recognize that there was no human solution. The one and only hope to the crises of our world is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is not blind faith. The pains of this world stem from a spiritual cancer in the heart of every person—rich and poor alike. The gospel not only diagnoses this disease, but provides the cure that heals past, present and future.
[blockquote_left]The gospel gives significance and meaning to our past hurts. Through Christ, suffering will not just be recompensed, but redeemed.[/blockquote_left]The gospel gives significance and meaning to our past hurts. Through Christ, suffering will not just be recompensed, but redeemed. It will be swallowed up into a greater glory—and in some miraculous way will increase the joy of eternity. The hint of this is seen in the cross. Christ’s sufferings not only brought our healing, but increased His glory. So it will be with all suffering. It won’t just be forgotten, but filled with real purpose and real value.
The gospel gives the present life purpose. Social programs and government policies can never address the root issue of the heart. Only the love of Christ can penetrate our souls and prompt us to truly love our neighbors. The gospel propels us to begin living the Kingdom of God here and now. In Latin America more wealth is concentrated among fewer people than almost anywhere in the world. How will these resources ever be unleashed to meet the needs of the Latin people unless the love of Christ softens hardened hearts? And how will hearts be softened if they do not hear the gospel?
Finally, the gospel provides lasting hope for the future. It is a hope not in some spiritualized eternity disconnected from the material world, but a future where this very world is healed and restored to its created purpose. A future of perfect peace where love and justice reign.
During their visit to the hospital, Kara and the choir sang for the patients. One song in particular expressed the gospel hope for that future day when all things will be set right. As they sang, an emaciated teenage AIDS patient looked up to heaven, his eyes brightened and joy broke out on his face. The gospel—its promise for the future, its joy in the present and its grace for the past—found holy expression.
Spiritually, the world suffers just like that young boy. But the gospel infuses past, present and future with meaning and power. With such a message of hope, how can we not give everything we have to proclaiming it (maybe even singing it) to our world in need?