A woman was traveling from London to Manila on an Emirates flight when she went into labor. The public address system asked for medical help. Two nurses heading home from their jobs on a Carnival cruise ship responded and helped deliver the baby.
The mother named her baby Sky.
The two nurses helped a mother they had never met because they are all part of our shared humanity on this tiny planet. Here’s another example of our interconnectedness: scientists have determined that a volcanic eruption of Alaska’s Mount Okmok more than two thousand years ago may have helped birth the Roman Empire.
In the years after Julius Caesar was assassinated, historical accounts recorded unusual cold, food shortages, disease, and famine. These likely exacerbated the social unrest that contributed to the downfall of the Roman Republic and led to the rise of the Empire in its place. Now scientists believe the volcano’s eruption may have caused these climatic conditions.
For a more contemporary example of our interconnected world, consider a dust storm from the Sahara Desert that moved into the Caribbean over the weekend. It is so historically large, experts have nicknamed it “Godzilla.” It is expected in the southeastern United States today and tomorrow.
While it will likely produce some vibrant sunsets, it could also make asthma and allergy symptoms worse. Those in America affected by a dust cloud from the Sahara are advised to close their windows, use air cleaners, wear masks, and check the air quality before going outside.
Four steps to renewing our national identity
The world is more interconnected than ever, but it feels more divided than ever. We are conflicted on whether to wear masks and practice social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus. We are conflicted on partisan politics as the election season escalates. We are conflicted about racial justice, removing statues, and occupied zones.
Even before the pandemic, recession, and demonstrations, Yuval Levin wrote in his book The Fractured Republic that we are experiencing “a trajectory of increasing individualism, diversity, dynamism, and liberalization. And it has come at the cost of dwindling solidarity, cohesion, stability, authority, and social order.” Our “fracturing of consensus” has grown “from diffusion into polarization—of political views, of incomes, of family patterns, and ways of life.”
Levin believes that to restore a sense of national identity “dedicated to the principle of the equality of the entire human race,” we must first rebuild “loving family attachments.” These will spread to “interpersonal relationships in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, religious communities, fraternal bodies, civic associations, economic enterprises, activist groups, and the work of local governments.”
These will then “reach further outward toward broader social, political, and professional affiliations, state institutions, and regional affinities.” Only then can we see a renewed and restored national identity.
Four ways to build unity in community
This week, we’re focusing on encouragement in discouraging times. Today, let’s discover ways to be the encouragers our culture needs.
Christians should be at the forefront of a movement fostering community in families, interpersonal relationships, social and regional affinities, and our national identity. Jesus called his followers to serve each other in love (John 13:14–15), prayed for our unity (John 17:23), and now leads us as his body and continued manifestation of his earthly ministry (1 Corinthians 12:27).
How can we set an example for our fractured culture? Asked differently, How can we be civil in an uncivil age? Envision someone who disagrees with you on a moral or cultural issue, whether it be abortion, LGBTQ issues, politics, or another divisive subject. Now take these biblical steps.
One: Pray for discernment to see the world as they do.
God knows our thoughts (Matthew 9:4; Hebrews 4:13). His Spirit knows how best to lead this person to biblical truth and saving faith (John 16:8–11). If you will ask, he will lead you to the words and actions he can use most effectively in their mind and heart.
Two: Build a relational bridge, earning the right to share unwelcome truth.
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, then led her to living water (John 4:7, 10). Nathan spent years as David’s trusted advisor before rebuking him for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1–15). Ken Medema says in one of his songs, “Don’t tell me I have a friend in Jesus until you show me I have a friend in you.”
Three: Say about people only what you would say to them.
This imperative applies to the way we speak of celebrities and political leaders as well as neighbors and colleagues. Jesus taught us to go directly to a person who sins against us (Matthew 18:15). Gossip and slander are forbidden by Scripture (Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 16:28). We are commanded: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Four: Remember that winning souls is more important than winning debates.
John F. Kennedy famously stated: “In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
But we are not. We are all immortal. Every person you know will spend eternity either with God in heaven or separated from him in hell. As “ambassadors for Christ,” our appeal is simple: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Let’s do all we can to help mortals prepare for eternity today.
NOTE: Today is the last day to request your copy of our newest book, 7 Deadly Sins: How Our Oldest Temptations Can Lead You From Vice to Virtue. Within its pages, my son Ryan and I discuss practical ways you can recognize the tempting traps into which any of us can so easily fall. You can overcome what threatens to overcome you. Please request your copy today.