In today’s society, we can easily believe that it’s all about us and what we can gain for ourselves, and it’s easy to view our faith through the same lens. We can believe a small gospel story that puts us at the centre, but the gospel is so much bigger and more expansive than we could ever imagine. The gospel is the all-encompassing story that involves the renewal and the restoration of all things.
It’s tempting to believe a gospel story that simply says, “For God so loved me, and put me in my church, and put my church in the world.” But the scriptures tell us a different story – a bigger, better story: “For God so loved the world.” For God so loved the world, and into the world he called his church, the bride of Christ, that one day he will return for and into the church. Don’t get me wrong, we are utterly and totally loved on a deeply personal level by God, we have been totally redeemed and saved by Jesus, but the gospel doesn’t end there… God loves the world and, through Jesus, God is saving, restoring, and renewing everything – this is the gospel.
When we start to look at things from this perspective, it shifts the focus from ourselves and it encourages us to look outwards. We begin to see everything through a new lens and we realise that God is doing more than just saving us: God is saving our cities, God is saving the world, God is saving every single thing we can think of. That’s why Paul writes these words in Ephesians 1:
“8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. 9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfil his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time, he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.”
God has poured out grace upon grace on us. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom. But he didn’t stop there… God has revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ: at the right time, he will bring everything together through Jesus – everything in heaven and earth.
POVERTY & INJUSTICE – ‘SOMETHING IS BROKEN’
Selena lives in Southern Malawi. She farms to provide for her children but a struggle with hunger that has been made worse by climate change means that she is fighting to survive. Selena is one of 795 million people in the world who are hungry; at the same time, roughly one-third of all the food that’s produced annually gets wasted. This screams that something in our world is broken; surely this isn’t the way it was supposed to be?
Something is broken and this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Genesis shows us that God created everything to be perfect and whole: the heavens and the earth, plants, living creatures, and – the pinnacle – humanity, made in the image and likeness of God. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31). We were made in perfect, loving relationship with God, ourselves, others and creation. But we were tempted to reject God’s authority and seek power for ourselves; we moved away from a life of wholeness and perfect relationship to a life of brokenness and broken relationships.
Broken relationships are the root cause of poverty. Today, we have a broken relationship with God – a poverty of intimacy: we swap an authentic connection with God, where he’s our source of identity and value, and start looking for other things to determine our value. We have a broken relationship with ourselves – a poverty of being: we forget that we are made in God’s image and let other people define who we are. We have a broken relationship with others – a poverty of community: we exchange life-giving relationships for a culture of individualism, always striving to meet our own needs without considering the needs of those around us. And we have a broken relationship with creation – a poverty of stewardship: we no longer have a healthy dominion over creation; instead, we exploit our planet and resources through mass consumption.
But brokenness doesn’t have the final say. The scriptures tell us that God is restoring broken relationships. God is bringing everything that is broken together through Jesus – everything in heaven and on earth – and this includes the brokenness of poverty and injustice. And we’re called to join in. The church in this generation has the calling to fight poverty, the calling to be a part of Jesus’ restoration story.
HOW CAN WE JOIN IN?
We make choices every day. Everyday we have to decide how we spend our money, where we spend our money, what we eat and what we wear, among a million other things. All these choices impact the world we live in. Anna Lappe sums this up perfectly: “Every time you spend your money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” So if we want to see a world without extreme poverty then we have to cast votes for this kind of world through the lifestyle choices we make. We can buy ethical clothing to ensure that people and the environment aren’t exploited, and we can eat less meat to reduce emissions. Even though money is often limited at university, we can still make small prophetic declarations of the world we want to see through our choices. Visit weare.tearfund.org/magazine for more lifestyle change ideas.
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” – Desmond Tutu
Throughout history, students have been at the forefront of educational, social, political and global change. Campus movements have hosted (and will continue to host) some of the most important acts of student resistance in the world’s history. Over the last few months, 1.4 million students from over 125 countries have campaigned to demand action to prevent further global warming. True justice isn’t about charity, it’s about breaking cycles of injustice. Societies and students at universities often run a variety of campaigns – get involved!
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
We are a generation who, together, can end extreme poverty. It’s within our grasp and we all have a part to play. We’ve developed Together Groups to help you mobilise other students to take action on behalf of people who are living in poverty, and you can find them here: weare.tearfund.org/groups. Alternatively, societies like Just Love and Global Health are passionate about tackling poverty and injustice, and they have a presence at most universities – join in!
By Chuma Gondwe (We Are Tearfund)
We Are Tearfund is a community that believes that a better world is possible, where everyone can thrive and where an end to extreme poverty gets ever closer as we pursue justice.
Have you heard their new podcast? It’s a monthly conversation about faith, justice and how to change the world, and will help you explore how to live out God’s call to pursue justice and put an end to extreme poverty. Search for “We Are Tearfund” in your podcast app.