We hear much today about what the people of Afghanistan or the people of Iraq need. Democracy, we are told, is what they really need, and democracy they shall have if we have any say so in the matter. Of course, ascent can be given and agreement can be had when it comes to the issue of democracy in nation states that have long been decimated by ruthless tyrants. As a democratically installed government takes power in Iraq today, we can rejoice. The Bush Doctrine is being propagated to the American people and indeed to other peoples in other places. Democracy must fan out and advance on the mighty tyrants of the world as a fire fans out and advances on the mighty red woods of California. While the Doctrine may be debated in terms of whether or not a country should initiate an offensive military campaign with no provocation other than that country's estimate of the nation in question's need for democracy, most would agree, the nations do indeed need democracy.
At the same time, Christians must always ask about those things which are ultimate, not that which is merely necessary. That which is ultimate must be the question before the Christian when consideration is given to what nations like Iraq need, for that which is ultimate must be the answer as well. Nations like Iraq, and indeed all the nations, or more biblically, all the people groups, more than anything else, need the gospel of Christ to come upon them with Holy Spirit power. They need the gospel to come not "…in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 1:5)."
The nations need the gospel of Christ to come upon them with Holy Spirit power so they can get grace. While a multitude of philosophies plague the peoples of the world and keep them in darkness, a few may be cited in terms of their generality and pervasiveness. For example, animism grips large numbers of people in a vice of fear and superstition. Animism is "the belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs and that humans, consequently, must discover what beings and forces are impacting them in order to determine future action and, frequently, to manipulate their power." When confronted with unexpected evil, the animist typically asks questions like "Who has caused this affliction to come upon me? Why has it happened to my family at this particular time? What power is troubling me? Has this been caused by an ancestor? By some spirit? By witchcraft? By the evil eye? By the stars? Who can help me discover the cause and source of this evil?" Of course, he can never be confident that all powers are lined up on his side. Witness the Taliabu or a variety of other tribal peoples in Indonesia and their practice of preserving their loved ones after death in a form of ancestor worship.
A second major philosophical commitment is to the worldview of pluralism. Simply defined by John R.W. Stott, "pluralism is an affirmation of the validity of every religion and the refusal to choose between them." Christian pluralism rejects world evangelism. This mindset is prevalent throughout Europe and in other culturally and technologically advanced population centers. Pluralism is at the heart of postmodern thinking and under girds the liberalism of even the mainline Protestant denominations.
Yet another philosophical worldview may be termed fundamentalism. The reference here is not to that Christian fundamentalism that rose in response to early, twentieth century liberalism. Rather, the reference is to a militant and religious commitment to world domination by that religion through force. Islamic fundamentalism would be an example of this particular mindset.
The point is that those who hold to these things are spread among the nations. Moreover, with reference to people groups and people within those people groups, the nations are in darkness and desperately need light. They need light by way of Holy Spirit power even as the gospel is preached. That gospel is veiled without the illuminating work of the Spirit. "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2 Cor. 4:3-7)." The nations can't just get up and go get the power of the Spirit and gospel salvation. They need the light to shine. God must deliver them by grace as they are in darkness and do not deserve the light.
The nations need the gospel of Christ to come upon them with Holy Spirit power so they can get peace. The gospel brings cultural peace. It is a fact that those countries which have been influenced by the gospel are far more prosperous, economically developed, culturally developed, etc. than countries or people groups who have not been exposed to gospel or gospel cultures. The notion that Christians are to glorify God in all things is foundational to cultural advance. Because of Christian love and compassion, hospitals came into being. Christians, to understand God's world better, opened the universities. Because of their love for God and man they engaged in community development and simple care for one's neighbor. The gospel will transform a culture because it will transform the individuals in that culture.
More importantly, the gospel brings spiritual peace. That peace is with God, with other human beings, and with oneself. "For [Christ] Himself is our peace, who has made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation (Eph. 2:14)." Sadly, animists have no peace. They only have fear.
Pluralists have no peace. They are at odds with God, but not only so, they are at odds with one another. Pluralism does not bring about tolerance. Rather, it brings about multicultural fragmentation. Last week in South Windsor, Conn, four high school students were sent home for wearing T-shirts that sported anti-gay slogans. The slogans read, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve." School officials said the shirts caused disturbances, arguments, and altercations.
An annual "Day of Silence" organized by the national "Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network" had been held earlier in the week. In order to promote awareness concerning discrimination and harassment toward homosexuals, students nationwide refused to speak on that day. One of the four Christian students said their shirts were in response to the "Day of Silence." Moreover, the state House of Representatives had passed a civil unions bill that same week. The boys were opposed to the bill and wanted to make their feelings known. "We felt if they could voice their opinions for it, we could voice our opinion against it. There is another side to this debate, and we're representing it."
The school principal erred by telling the boys the shirts were permissible if they were not a distraction to others. Where is the "distraction clause" in the U.S. Constitution? The "Day of Silence" was honored by this same school, yet, boys wearing T-shirts that are not in compliance with someone's worldview were sent home. No doubt the administration would respond by saying the "Day of Silence" provoked no altercations. Are we surprised that the Christians did not disrupt school in the face of the homosexual protest? Are we surprised that Christians respected the rights of others to free speech? Are we surprised that non-Christians are inconsistent on all fronts these days?
Diana Rosen didn't feel safe at school that day. One wonders if she is engaging in "drama queen" rhetoric or if she truly did not feel safe. Again, if she did not, who instigated the altercations? It was the pro-homosexual crowd. Of course, that's their modus operandi nation wide. We see it in their "Gay Pride" marches, their militant actions, and other protests from the likes of the "Pink Angels" in Philadelpha. The point is that multicultural pluralism brings fragmentation as opposed to true tolerance or religious freedom.
Militant fundamentalists have no peace. They feast upon the twin evils of war and terror. Nothing more needs to be said than 9/11.
Animists, pluralists, and fundamentalists all need peace with God and man. Barriers must be broken and they can only be broken by the power of the gospel. "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands--that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near (Eph. 2:11-17)."
Think of the following words uttered in 1963 and apply them to any context. "And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of 'interposition' and 'nullification' -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together." The sentiment of these words can only be realized by Holy Spirit power for only the gospel breaks down all barriers.
The nations need the gospel of Christ to come upon them with Holy Spirit power so they can get sonship. Because animists live in fear, they need a Father who can take away their fear. Consider the word of God: "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father (Rom. ).'"
Because pluralists talk about the universal fatherhood of God in "another gospel" kind of way, they are like the Jews of John 8 who thought Abraham was their father and Jesus said to them "the devil is your father." They too need the power of the Spirit because only "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16)."
Fundamentalists don't need a petty god who leads them to war. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here (Jn. 18:36)." They don't need a petty god who leads them to war. They need a Father who leads them to redemptive suffering. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom. 8:16-17)."
The nations need the gospel of Christ to come upon them with Holy Spirit power so they can get citizenship. If a person has citizenship, he has a King! Animists don't need to fear and appease spirits either real or imagined. They need a King to exalt and a King in which to delight! They need to "[turn] to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thes. 1:9)." Pluralists don't need postmodern relativism that offers no truth. They don't need a worldview that offers nothing but philosophical quicksand. They need a King to call Lord, a King to obey, a king to worship and magnify. They don’t need many kings but the King of kings and Lord of lords. Fundamentalists don’t need an earthly king for an earthly kingdom of hatred and war. Rather, they need a Heavenly King for a spiritual and eternal Kingdom of love and peace.
That's what the nations need in an ultimate sense. That's why we go to the nations. They need grace, peace, sonship, and citizenship. That's why we pray for the nations. They need the power of the Holy Spirit to give them new natures. The nations need the word to come in power. They need Christ. Dear friends, we know their need. Because we know their need, we have a dream, and a mission: "that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."