This New York Times article reads like the plot of the next Mission Impossible: according to the Biden administration, China has hidden malicious computer code deep inside networks controlling our power grids, communication systems, and water supplies that feed our military bases in the US and around the world. One congressional official called the Chinese malware “a ticking time bomb” that could give China the power to interrupt or slow American military actions by cutting off power, water, and communications to our bases.
Its impact could be even broader, however, because that same infrastructure often supplies the houses and businesses of ordinary Americans. Officials acknowledge that they do not know the full extent of the malware’s presence in networks around the world, in part because it is so well hidden.
“Survival in a world without order”
Understandably, Americans view China as our greatest enemy in the world today. Complicating matters greatly, however, China is also our largest trading partner. And they see the world very differently than we do.
In his recent Foreign Affairs article titled “China Is Ready for a World of Disorder: America is Not,” geopolitical analyst Mark Leonard reports: “Most Western leaders and policymakers try to preserve the existing rules-based international order,” but “Chinese strategists increasingly define their goal as survival in a world without order.”
This is because the West was built on a Judeo-Christian foundation that sees the world in the context of right and wrong, good and evil, and believes that history is progressing toward a final conclusion. By contrast, China’s atheistic worldview rejects the concept of objective good and evil, viewing “right” as whatever advances their interests and “wrong” as whatever impedes them. Thus implanting malware to disrupt our infrastructure is “right” if it is right for their geopolitical interests, even if it is “wrong” for the rest of the world.
This amoral worldview pervades much of Chinese culture, as I discovered when I taught a seminar on business ethics in Beijing some years ago. The leaders with whom I met were frustrated by the corruption, bribery, and deceit inherent in their business systems. But these were symptoms of a larger rejection of objective morality, the same rejection America’s secularized culture now embraces and demands.
How can you and I stand up to this immoral maelstrom?
“A guest, like all my fathers”
C. S. Lewis preached his final sermon, “A Slip of the Tongue,” on January 29, 1956, during Evensong at Magdalene College, Cambridge. In it he reflected on these words in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal.”
Lewis remarked, “Not long ago when I was using [this] collect for the fourth Sunday after Trinity in my private prayers I found that I had made a slip of the tongue. I had meant to pray that I might so pass through things temporal that I finally lost not the things eternal; I found that I had prayed so to pass through things eternal that I finally lost not the things temporal.” He then contrasted the two prayers, observing that we often use eternal realities to advance our temporal interests.
If Satan cannot get us to avoid spiritual activities, he will entice us to use them transactionally: to go to church on Sunday so God will bless us on Monday, to begin our day with Bible study, prayer, and articles like this one so God will bless our day. Such motives may not be intentional or even conscious, but they are a tempting way to relate the temporal to the eternal in a secularized culture.
David turned these priorities around when he prayed, “O Lᴏʀᴅ, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4). God quickly answered his prayer, so that he wrote next: “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (v. 5). Consequently, he told the Lord, “I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers” (v. 12).
The wise king embraced the truth that this world is but a means to the next. This fact is why Hebrews 12 exhorts us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1). It is why Paul could look back over his life and testify, “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). And it is why he likened our physical bodies to “the tent that is our earthly home” (2 Corinthians 5:1). The course of the race is not the finish line. A tent is used by travelers as a means to the end of arriving at their destination.
“I’m just passing through”
Here’s the paradox: using the temporal to serve the eternal is the best way to live in the temporal.
Avoiding sin today (Ephesians 4:27) to avoid God’s judgment one day (2 Corinthians 5:10) is the best way to live today (cf. John 10:10). Doing what God will reward in heaven builds with “gold, silver, precious stones” on earth; refusing what he will condemn in the next life is refusing “wood, hay, straw” in this life (1 Corinthians 3:12).
If you knew you had only today to use the temporal for the eternal, what would you change? I cannot promise you that this is your last day on this planet, but I cannot promise you that it is not.
And I can assure you that, like David, you are a “guest” in this world on your way to your home in the next. What you do today determines what you will find when you arrive (cf. Matthew 25:31–46).
A traveler visiting a famous rabbi was surprised by the austerity of his small home: a bed, a desk, and a few other essentials but nothing befitting his cultural status. He asked the rabbi why he had so few possessions.
The rabbi replied by asking the traveler why he had only his luggage.
“I’m just passing through” was the reply.
“So am I,” said the rabbi.
So are you.
NOTE: Today is the last day to make a difference in the lives of people you may never meet this side of heaven. We’re closing in on our summer goal of $474,769, and it’s because of generous donors like you that we’re able to exist and thrive. Please know of our deep gratitude for every gift that allows our ministry to follow God’s call. Your support makes a difference; please give now.