Three months ago, Russia seized Crimea. Last Thursday, Russian tanks rolled into eastern Ukraine. Last Saturday, Russian separatists destroyed a Ukrainian transport jet, killing 49 people. On Monday, Moscow stopped transporting natural gas to Kiev. Two months ago, the U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and Palestine failed after the Palestinians announced a unified government that would include Hamas. Now Israel is blaming Hamas for the kidnapping of three teenagers as tensions continue to escalate.
Meanwhile, militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured Mosul, Tikrit, and now Tal Afar. They are executing mass numbers of Shiites everywhere they go. The U.S. is considering an alliance with Iran in its attempt to beat back the Sunni insurgency. However, Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and continues to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
What can you and I do? Consider three options.
One: blame our leaders. The Wall Street Journal essay I’ve just summarized is titled “The Pace of Obama’s Disasters.” The writer blames the current administration for failures that have led to this series of international crises. By contrast, a recent New York Times editorial sets the blame squarely on George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, to which the writer attributes the Shiite majority now in power, advancing Iranian interests, and inflamed Sunni insurgency. Some say President Obama should not have withdrawn from Iraq; others say President Bush should not have gone there. We can criticize our leaders for the crises we see unfolding around the world.
Two: blame the other side. A new survey by Pew Research shows that Americans are more polarized than ever before. The largest percentages in history view the other political party as a “threat to the nation’s well-being.” The more likely Americans are to vote and donate money to campaigns, the more ideologically rigid they are. They want to associate with and live near those who share their views. They don’t want their children to marry someone with a different political viewpoint. You and I can watch only Fox or MSNBC, read only The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, and blame the other side for the state of the world.
Three: make a difference. Technology makes it possible for us to engage the world in ways never before possible. For instance, if you’re a pastor or church leader, how could you help your congregation serve suffering people in Ukraine or Iraq? Could you find a pastor and church there, establish a relationship with them, and pray for them? Could you look for ways to contribute financially to help those without food or shelter? As God sent Jonah to Nineveh, the ancient capital of the land now known as Iraq, can he send you anywhere he wants you to go?
Jesus called his followers “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16). If you’re sitting in the dark and I know the location of the light switch, what should I do next?