From the series, Ten Turning Points That Make All the Difference
I wrote earlier this week that God’s people had been called to be a blessing to all nations of the earth. What was that blessing to be? The answer to that is clear, though it’s complicated, because it hasn’t been a sudden outpouring right from the start. It’s been gradual.
God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He works with his people to work through them. So as we will see next week when we look at God’s ongoing revelation, he doesn’t pour himself out upon us like the ocean. He could, but he doesn’t. He comes at a pace we can handle, like a stream or a rainfall.
So rather than making everything abruptly just right, God has been patiently working in and through his people over time, to build and prepare them for the fulfillment of the Abrahamic calling (Genesis 12:1-3). We who follow God have never been perfect. Sometimes we haven’t even been good examples. Thousands of years after Abraham, however, we are seeing God accomplish what he promised.
There is of course one key moment of fulfillment: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose redemptive work was for all the world. He sent his followers to share his message with all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), so that all persons could have an opportunity for the life and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
It has taken us a long time to see that task nearing completion. This is the hardest part of this entire series: to acknowledge that so many have never heard the word of Christ, and have never had a chance at that blessing. In a series on Ten Turning Points, this is one point that isn’t turning for some people. So how shall I deal with it, other than with grief? I’m going to set it aside for a moment. It really isn’t a Turning Point, so it fits elsewhere. I will try to return to it in another blog post within a week or so. I will also have to deal with the question of whether the Old Testament Hebrews were such a great blessing to the nations.
For although we have not succeeded in all ways, and as I wrote last time, haven’t always even come close, over time God’s people have indeed blessed the peoples of the world in multiple ways. The opportunity to know Jesus Christ has not yet reached the entire world, but many experts predict that we are within ten to fifteen years of having at least some mission work begun in every “people group” (linguistically/religiously /tribally/economically/racially distinct group of people) of more than 50,000 population on earth.
While opening up the knowledge of God, the people of God have also
- Pioneered and championed compassionate ministry to the poor and needy
- Uniquely taken the lead in caring for needy persons who were not of their own people
- Invented and propagated the idea of the university
- Preserved the knowledge of antiquity (what you’ve heard about Christians burning libraries is quite false)
- Developed the systems that became modern banking
- Provided the largest proportion by far of humanitarian aid to disaster-stricken regions of the world
- Provided massive educational services
- Cared for the sick, at cost and risk to themselves
- Raised the status of women in every culture where Christianity has had influence (if you’re thinking the opposite is true, your knowledge of global history needs serious shoring up)
- Protected babies from infanticide and abortion, and provided pregnancy/young mother care and adoption as an alternative
- Established the foundation for modern civil rights and the rule of law
- Provided the chief impetus for the abolition of slavery
There are rumors and false facts afoot denying some of this. Most of that is based on an inverted backward look. The idea that Christianity oppresses women, for example, is ignorant of what has happened to women where Christianity had not yet had significant influence. The charge that Christians supported slavery is true, but all that means is that not all Christians have followed the truth as they should have; whereas it remains true that wherever slavery has been actively abolished, it has been where Christianity has been strongly influential.
I have summarized many goods that God’s people have done over the centuries. I must hasten to add that this is not because God’s people are better people; it is because they are the ones through whom our good God has primarily done his good work. God is good. His people have been very slow to catch up: but they are following the right leader.
Now I know that I cannot begin to explain or defend all the above bullet-point assertions in one blog post. God’s work has been in the process of being accomplished by God’s people for millennia. I’m going to take at least several months to get back to discussing some of these in more detail.
I need to footnote this by repeating what I wrote in the first entry on this subject. The topic of God’s people belongs in any discussion of major turning points in the history of God’s work in the world, so I cannot leave it out. It would be wrong to exclude it. On the other hand, there is no way to do it right in the time and space available. The topic covers thousands of years and involves the entire globe, and it touches directly on serious social controversies. I am going to proceed by including the topic in this series, but with no pretense of being comprehensive. In the three posts I’m writing on it, I will take a very brief look at a few aspects of it that interest me. It’s inadequate, but it’s what I can do.