Miriam Adeney

Miriam AdeneyThis essay was originally published in the Autumn 2001 issue of SPU’s Response

How do we respond to the devastation of September 11? Many responses come to mind: Prayer. Care for the injured and bereft. Increased security, increased vigilance. Just punishment for the masterminds behind the carnage. Stronger international cooperation against terrorism. Immersion in Scripture. But there is one more response: American Christians will want also to become better global citizens.

Since the so-called end of the Cold War, many of us have not given much thought to the rest of the world except as occasional business, tourist or short-term mission connections. Those days of ignorance are over. We have been hit in the solar plexus with the truth that we are globally connected and cannot cut loose. To think about the rest of the world overwhelms us. Masses of data pour over us, jumbled in sound bites that juxtapose great human tragedies with beer ads. How can ordinary citizens like you and me know enough to make intelligent comments on global issues?

Of all people, Christians are to love our neighbors. When our neighborhood expands to include the globe, then we’re called to love globally. How? Some of the most important steps may be the simplest: Pray as you read through the newspaper, especially the world news section. Befriend foreigners who live in your city. Develop strong relationships with your church or denominational missionaries. Ask business people to talk about their global involvements. Teach a church class on the biblical basis of mission, tracing global issues from Genesis to Revelation.

Yet we can do all this with a patronizing smile, keeping others at arms’ length. Loving our neighbors means something more. It means being vulnerable. It means entering into their pain. When God in Jesus came to live among us, he shared our troubles and felt our hurts. Do we empathize with those in other countries?

Globalization has hurt a lot of people. Despite the many benefits of transnational business, a global economy is blamed in many parts of the world for massive unemployment, a sharp rise in prices and decline in wages, the reduction of public services, environmental degradation and a growing distance between the rich and the poor. And when labor must follow jobs in a borderless world, many leave behind spouses, children and parents, obliterating family closeness. Do we feel that pain?

Becoming global Christians does not mean creating a paternalistic relationship with believers in other countries. It means being siblings under a heavenly Father. We have much to give in answering some needs, but our brothers and sisters have resources we can no longer live without.

We must listen, for example, to how believers in Indonesia and Sri Lanka have learned to live with the constant threat of terrorism. We must learn from believers in Rwanda and Croatia about forgiving known and unknown enemies. And believers in the Near East have much to teach us about responding to extreme forms of Islam.

The Earth — all of it — is the Lord’s. We cannot be healthy American Christians today and ignore the world. A global concern is not optional. It comes from the heart of God.

Miriam Adeney is the author of numerous books, including God’s Foreign Policy: Practical Ways to Help the World’s Poor (Regent College Press, 1993). Her book, Daughters of Islam: Building Bridges With Muslim Women (InterVarsity Press), was released in January 2002. This essay was based on an article published in the Oct. 22, 2001, issue of Christianity Today.

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