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Engage the face of suffering

"Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?" Proverbs 24:11-12

The world feels exceptionally weighty today, and I am gripped with sadness.

Video from Afghanistan. Earthquakes, flooding, and tremendous political unrest in Haiti. Unconscionable human atrocities taking place in North Korea. A ruthless war raging across Ethiopia. Mass detainment and killing of Uyghurs across China. The list goes on. The world, clearly, is not as it should be.

As we watch the shocking events in Afghanistan unfold across social channels, we feel anger, frustration, and sadness, with swaths of overlap. We recognize the horrific nature of what lies before our eyes and hope for peace. We want wrongs righted and evil defeated, people groups lifted out of poverty and oppression halted. We want dignity for all to rise. But what we have is the opposite.

In moments such as these, I wonder, “What can we, practically, do in response to evil in the world? Board a plane? Enter a warzone? How is the church, how am I, to respond to suffering across the globe?” In moments like these, I am tempted to simply disengage.

In Scripture, we find ourselves obligated to care for the poor and oppressed. The passage above swats the notion of simply living unaware of these events. Whether or not we are overtly aware of specific incidents, we recognize instinctually our world's innate 'wrongness.' We are called to combat this wrongness.

Alexander MacLaren summed this idea up in his expository work on Proverbs.

"Violence slays its thousands, but supine negligence slays its tens of thousands."

This idea cuts to the heart. Most who live in developed societies are so protected from the tremendous human suffering across the world we grow disconnect. Our general position of privilege on the world stage often leads to an underappreciation for atrocities taking place. We lack the context for it in our daily lives. The result? Indifference in the face of need.

This need is physical and spiritual. We are called to care for human suffering because Christ cares about human suffering. However, the far weightier - the far mightier - component lies in the spiritual realm. Eternal spiritual punishment awaits those who leave this Earth without knowing Christ. We are called to care for souls who don’t know Christ as He does.

There are, of course, practical limitations to the level of involvement we can assume. But we can’t allow practical limitations to become excuses. We can’t allow our fortunate situations to keep us from serving those not so lucky. We have an obligation, as believers, to engage.

While we may not be physically called to these places, we can still go. Our giving can carry us into their hurt. Our prayers can portal heaven into their pain. Our influence can provoke change. And who knows, He may just call your feet to walk into their streets. His did.

Whatever the context looks like for you, in the face of suffering, we are called to engage, as Christ did for us.


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