I love the Cuban people.
It has been my privilege to serve alongside Cuban Christians on ten different mission trips to their island over more than two decades. Their churches amaze and encourage me every time I am with them. The Cuban ministries with whom we partner truly manifest New Testament Christianity. With very few resources and in the face of escalating pressure and persecution, they are serving Jesus in courageous and transformative ways.
My love for the Cubans and their beautiful island makes the news of recent days especially personal for me.
A fact that is relevant to every nation
Thousands of people in cities and towns across Cuba took to the streets two days ago to call for an end to their country’s decades-old dictatorship and to demand food and vaccines. They are responding to ongoing shortages of basic necessities and soaring cases of COVID-19.
My friends in Cuba report that food and other essentials have been especially difficult to find in recent months. Long food lines are a daily fact of life. In addition, the Cuban government decided to make its own COVID-19 vaccine rather than buying shots from other countries, but plans to immunize the population have been plagued by delays.
Cuba has not seen an uprising like this since protests in 1994 that were brief and limited to the area of Havana. By contrast, last Sunday saw at least twenty-five protests in different locations across the island.
My Cuban friends are some of the most brilliant, industrious, and creative people I have ever met. They deserve a government that works for them, not against them. The ongoing crisis in their country illustrates a fact that is powerfully relevant to every nation and culture: ideas matter.
Dirt floors and a water faucet
The capitalist idea is that individuals should compete for profits. The communist idea is that a central government should control property and determine wages, prices, and production goals.
To see the consequences of the two ideologies, you need only to travel ninety miles from Florida to Cuba.
When Fidel Castro and his brother Raul took power in Cuba in January 1959, he originally positioned himself as a nationalist. Before long, however, he was courting the leaders of the Soviet Union, an alignment that led to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. From then until today, Cuba has been constitutionally defined as a Marxist-Leninist socialist state guided by the political philosophy of Karl Marx and others.
The communist ideology that governs Cuba is enormously repressive. Amnesty International reports that “civil and political rights continue to be severely restricted by Cuban authorities.” Many government critics are imprisoned; many report that they were beaten during arrest. The government controls and curtails freedom of assembly and association.
I have seen many Cuban families living in shacks with dirt floors and a water faucet rising out of the ground for plumbing. Electricity is sporadic; hot water even in the hotels is a luxury. Basic medicines such as aspirin are difficult to obtain. Traveling to Cuba is like stepping back centuries in time.
H. G. Wells observed, “Human history is, in essence, a history of ideas.”
The malignant denial of truth
Yesterday we discussed the assault on truth and biblical truth going on in our culture today. It has become conventional wisdom in our postmodern culture that all truth is personal and subjective.
This claim that there are no absolute truths is itself an absolute truth claim, of course. And it fails not just logically but practically—if all truth is subjective, how is the rule of law to be enforced? What makes one ideology (such as radical jihadism) wrong and another right?
Nonetheless, this malignant denial of objective truth is metastasizing through the body of our society. It renders the Bible a diary of religious experiences that Christians have no right to “force” on others. It makes life from conception to death whatever we determine it to be, fueling the drive for elective abortion and euthanasia. It makes sexuality whatever we determine it to be, fueling the drive for LGBTQ acceptance and celebration. And it makes evangelism the intolerant “imposition” of our values on others.
If I were Satan, I would follow precisely this strategy in separating American culture from the biblical worldview upon which our nation was founded and the biblical morality that is essential to our flourishing.
“Itching ears” and four transforming priorities
Paul predicted that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4).
In such times, what should we do?
The apostle continued: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (v. 5). These instructions are preserved in God’s word not just for Timothy but for us as well.
- “Always be sober-minded” in the Greek means to be “self-controlled in every situation.”
- “Endure suffering” can be translated “bear affliction and distress patiently.”
- “Do the work of an evangelist” is a present-tense imperative to share the gospel with every person we can in every way we can. The more people reject God’s grace, the more they need God’s grace.
- “Fulfill your ministry” means to “accomplish your assignment from God.”
As fallen people, we cannot fulfill these priorities in our abilities. But as Spirit-filled followers of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:16), we can do all things through the One who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
If you were more self-controlled, patient, evangelistic, and missional than you are today, what would change?