“In the age of the Islamic State, it’s especially terrifying to have real smugglers of nuclear bomb material apparently making real connections with real buyers.” So says Matthew Bunn, a Harvard professor who studied the security of Russia’s nuclear arsenal for the Clinton administration.
He’s talking about the Associated Press’s report that gangs with suspected Russian connections are trying to sell radioactive material to Middle Eastern extremists. One suspect said to an informant, “I really want an Islamic buyer because they will bomb the Americans.” Another said he wanted to “annihilate America.” (For more on this, read Ryan Denison’s Eastern Europe’s road to a nuclear Middle East.)
Most Americans view the Islamic State as an overseas problem. Now we know better.
The world is shrinking by the day. The company that owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell saw its share prices fall by eighteen percent recently. The reason: sales in China, which account for nearly half the company’s profits, are declining. China’s economic problems contribute to the International Monetary Fund’s forecast that global growth will be lower than at any time since the financial crisis of 2008.
While global crises escalate, fewer Americans are turning to organized religion for their spiritual needs. Writing for The Atlantic, Diana Butler Bass documents the “spiritual” connections many are now finding in local communities rather than local churches.
For instance, the number of farmers’ markets known to the U.S. Department of Agriculture has grown from 1,700 in 1994 to over 8,000 in 2014. The “sharing economy” encourages neighborhood connections around home gardens, transportation, and other communal needs. Bass likens this phenomenon to the early Christian community described in the Book of Acts. Though without the gospel, of course.
In this post-Christian culture, the world’s challenges are your challenges and mine. How can we make a difference?
First, we can pray more fervently than ever before.
I have often asked Christians to pray daily for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders to have a vision of Jesus and come to faith in Christ. How passionately would you pray if you knew ISIS would attack your city with a nuclear bomb next week?
Second, we can use our influence to change the world where we are.
When Stephen became the first Christian martyr, he did not know that one of his persecutors would become the Apostle Paul and would write half of the New Testament. God knows your influence, gifts, and ability. He has a plan to maximize your usefulness to his Kingdom. (Tweet this) If you live today submitted to his Spirit’s leading and power, you can know that your faithfulness will bear eternal fruit.
Third, we can serve with urgency.
A group called the eBible Fellowship made headlines with their prediction that the world would be annihilated yesterday. The fact that you’re reading today’s Cultural Commentary means they were wrong. But it doesn’t mean that the world won’t end today. Or tomorrow. We’re one day closer to eternity than ever before.
Here’s the good news: the One we serve transcends all we see. No matter what happens today, he is still Lord today. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) said to God, “Clearly, whatever You are, You are not that through another but through Your very self. You are therefore the very life by which You live, the wisdom by which You are wise, the very goodness by which You are good to both good men and wicked” (Proslogion 12).
How will you serve your wise and good God today?