Teenagers give me hope for the future.
In talking with teens for my job, I sense a fiery passion for the world. I have the privilege talk with and know teenagers who are one of the most connected generations on the planet, therefore in their minds, you have to intentionally turn a blind eye to injustice, because with the internet, it can literally be right in front of you.
This upcoming generation is one of the most socially conscious generations. They want to see real change in the world. There is a fire in them to make it happen too. I love this. Teens are so inspiring to me.
One other trademark of this generation is that they are plagued with mental health issues. They are paralyzed by fear and anxiety and immobilized by depression. That is a battle that is worth fighting for because these are the people that care deeply enough to do something about world hunger, human trafficking, sexual assault and exploitation, slavery, and other mass injustices in this world.
What Anger Is:
Anger at injustice can be fuel for the fight. What I am learning though, is that you can not stay in that place and be healthy enough to win the war rather than just one battle. The anger may be an impulse that lights the ignition, but it will not carry the vehicle of change through the whole journey to its final destination. We need more.
Anger is like carbs and sugar for a quick jolt of energy during a single workout, but we all know that protein is what is needed to build and maintain muscle over a length of time.
So what is the thing we need to replace anger? I have a suggestion for what might take us through the long haul to a better end. HOPE. A clear vision for where we want to be in the future.
For me, it is a desperate clinging to kingdom-of-God theology. As a Christian, I stake my hope in a God who will be victorious. That is one thing I choose to believe: That in the end, God will win.
And I believe that He has already won- In the act two thousand years ago of dying to free humanity from the bondage of sin and resurrection to prove the victory over Satan, God won.
Jesus established the Kingdom of God- the dream for humanity- here on earth already, The tension comes in that it is not already in its fullness. We know this. We see this all around us. There is still sin, pain and death in this world. That is obvious.
But God is also here in this world, choosing to work in and through us, allowing us to be a part of this inch-by-inch, bringing the kingdom of God closer and more fully into our future reality.
I picture a rope connected to this fully-established kingdom of God in the future. You can argue time and God’s foreknowledge and control over the future all you want, but this image fills me with hope:
That the church as a whole has taken hold of this rope, clumsily, like an elementary school tug-of-war game, tripping over each other (because you know we do- “Ouch! That hurt!” and “oops, I didn’t mean to step on your foot!”) and all grasping the rope and pulling together- because this future is so big and heavy and full of all the good things God desires for us, and slowly, painfully, pulling this reality inch-by-inch closer.
We do not do this perfectly. Like any kids’ tug-of-war game, it is not a perfectly coordinated effort. We trip over one another. We lose our grip. We get angry at the person next to us in the line for stepping on us or squishing our hands on the rope. Our palms may get a little rope burn. Sometimes, we get so frustrated by the view that there has been no progress or that we are losing as the forces of Satan tug back on our efforts, that we walk away, looking for something else.
I hope most of us come back and join in this effort. Because we all know, the more people you have, pulling the same direction, the more likely you are to have success.
This is Good Work.
So it may not be the perfect image, but it helps me see the church’s mission in the world more clearly. It means doing the hard work of loving others well. It means doing the unsexy work of washing dishes. This mission looks like being uncomfortable and loving the ones you would rather not. It means getting messy and keeping our eyes open to injustice in our world and little-by-little working to fix it.
This work means being brave and taking a stand against what is wrong. It means protecting the vulnerable and lonely from those who would hurt and exploit them. It means looking at how we spend our money- to promote ethical trade as well as giving-when-it-stings so that another can have food to survive.
This is good work. It matters. The mission is to point to the true kingdom of God, the reality that God has always desired for his beloved people, to claim it as their own, to live it to the best of their ability, and to pull that future closer and closer to our reality.