The year 2020 changed the world. Every person on earth can attest to this fact. Think of that. No other time in history can compare to the worldwide battle with COVID 19. Additionally, here in America, we experience profound conflict and change. As an American Christian and international Gospel worker, I am reminded of three new or emerging realities for the next time I travel abroad for missions.
Reality One – Racial Tension
No matter what conclusions you draw about the origin or current state of race relations in the US, one cannot deny the visceral response from People of Color to the US’s incidences in 2020. Consider the rising tide of Critical Race Theory (if you are unfamiliar, I highly advise you to educate yourself further). Observe the prevailing sense among People of Color – particularly African Americans – that historical slavery is an injustice not yet reconciled in our country.
Place these essential considerations in the context of centuries of worldwide colonialism in many of the places where the West pursues the Gospel Mission. As white American Christians can we not eventually expect a visceral response to our whiteness in these places that experienced so much injustice for so long? How will we respond to this new reaction to our presence? Prepare for when friendly smiles are replaced by logical questions about motive, history, and privilege.
Reality Two – Political Fallout
Regarding politics, for an entire presidential term, many American Christians made excuses for some of the behavior and tweets of our leader. Many compromised morals to follow a version of Christian Nationalism in favor of agreeable policy and economics. As a political conservative myself, I was often conflicted. There is a grey line between biblical patriotism and Christian Nationalism. Combining our faith with a constitution and a political personality is a dangerous cocktail. I won’t go further into this now but will leave it with the point that the world was watching. The world watched our presidential election process. They watched what happened in our capital on January 6th. They are watching how American Christians will respond.
Whatever side you land on politically, the resulting dynamic for a Western Gospel Messenger is an entrance into a world with a tarnished American reputation. As Americans, we carry this reputation and will need to be prepared to address it in our relationships with those hearing the Gospel. Will we defend our Christian Nationalism, or will we humbly admit our frailty and point to the Kingdom of God’s efficacy above all the governments on earth?
Reality Three – A Shared Experience of Suffering
The pandemic continues to leave its mark on the world. One of the most powerful opportunities we have to take forward is the shared experience of suffering among all humanity. Perhaps COVID forever changed the rules for travel, the ease of access, and our perspective of safety. But it also flattened the curve of commonality.
Yes – we will still “go” as we abide by new travel regulations. And, as we go, we have the opportunity to experience empathy like never before. The entire world now shares a united fight against an invisible enemy. Everyone everywhere wears the ubiquitous masks, and shares losses with relationships, community, and family.
In the year 2020, the world changed. We all changed. And the context of the Gospel Messenger changed. As we go, may we be wise and humble, may we speak the truth in love, and may we place the Gospel in context with our new realities.