Aaron and I watched the movie Blood Diamond not too long ago. It’s fairly old now – like ten years old – so I’m late to the party on caring about this, or knowing about this, but I’m usually about five years behind the curve on most things - like puberty and marriage and knowing the proper pronunciation of pho. Anyway, this movie is about diamonds being mined in Sierra Leone and smuggled into Liberia to be sold. It takes place in 1999, when rebels were trying to take over the country. They were ravaging villages and kidnapping children and forcibly using them as soldiers and diamond miners. I can’t recap the entire story for you here, but bring tissues if you plan to watch. As the story progressed, I looked at the diamond ring on my finger and suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had no idea this was even an issue. I mean, I vaguely remember advertising a while ago where people were really quick to say their diamonds were “conflict-free” but I never really knew what that meant. I didn’t even know to ask about that when Aaron and I went ring shopping.
The first thing I did the next morning was call the place where we bought my engagement and wedding ring. I told Aaron after the movie was over that I was going to call and he said, “What if they can’t assure you that it is?” and I said, “Well, then we’ll sell it.” I wasn’t going to wear a child’s blood-soaked work on my finger. I understand that this was just a movie and not necessarily portraying facts with 100% accuracy, but even still, the whole thing was heartbreaking. The movie finished and I laid on the couch thinking, “The world is a terrible place.”
Every day there’s something new to warrant our sadness and outrage. But what are we supposed to do in all of these crises? How do we help in this midst of all the terror and tragedy in the world? Donate twenty dollars and hope to feel better? Write about it on social media? Share an article? Create a hashtag and pat ourselves on the back? Offer thoughts and prayers and move on two seconds later to our own problems? And, we do have our own problems. We're addicted to drugs and I'm not just talking about our smartphones. We're lost in a connected world, lonely and competing and not measuring up. We're drowning out the noise with all manner of prescriptions and vices. Our students are taking guns and killing their classmates for attention because they figure they can't get our attention any other way.
I watched a documentary recently about Cyntoia Brown. At 16, she was convicted of first degree murder for killing a man she thought was going to rape or kill her and there’s much more the story, including the fact that this man picked her up as a prostitute and her “boyfriend” is the one who sent her out to go make him some money. Gross. But in one of the interviews she said these boys she was with – these guys who she let take advantage of her and harm her – she said they were all just seeking affirmation. They all wanted someone to tell them they were worth something. They all had wounded pride and they were building themselves back up through money, girls, sex, and power. They wanted approval. And dang it, isn’t that what we’re all seeking though possibly through different means? We're all just crying for attention. Validation. Affirmation. Tell me I'm important!
So dear Jesus, what do we do? What do we do that would be helpful in this chaos? What do we do that would matter? And the only answer that comes to me immediately is, “Share the gospel.” Share the gospel. Okay, yeah, but what else? Nothing else. I’m not even doing that. I could be doing that much, but I’m not. So that’s the only thing to do. That’s the most important thing we can be doing right now in the midst of all the fighting and pain. Share the gospel. Be the gospel. To our neighbors and friends. To our siblings. In our own homes - to our spouses and children. Especially to our children, who will go out in their schools and either spread darkness or light. Since there’s power in the name of Jesus, then just say it, speak it, bring it to the most ordinary places you go every single day. I don’t want to get so caught up in my life that I forget that I'm here to bring the gospel. "Your kingdom come, your will be done," if that's our prayer then we have to be the ones to bring the kingdom near.
For those who know the gospel, for those who understand that there is a Savior we all desperately need, the only reason we wouldn’t share it is because we don’t think it’s true – we don’t think it’s what people really need or want. Or we do, but we’re too scared that they’ll think we’re dumb and we don’t want to be dumb – we want to be cool! We want to be liked. We want followers and retweets and shares. I know I’m guilty. I’m guilty of thinking, “How do I say this in a way that Christians will understand and non-Christians won’t hate it?’ which is just another way to say, “How do I make Jesus cool enough for everyone?” But I can’t. I can’t do it. He doesn’t need help being cool. He just needs you to speak his name. His word is living and active and he can do what you can’t. Only he can change hearts. Only he can change minds. Only he can calm war-torn nations and ravaged cities and shredded hearts. He’s the only one who can make a real difference in any of it. He can take that twenty dollars you donated and change lives. He can take that hashtag and make it impact the entire country. He can take your start-up and let it influence the world’s most powerful leaders if he wanted to. He just wants to use you to do it, start it, write it, say it, bring his name into the conversation.
I read an 1873 sermon on the Beatitudes by Charles Spurgeon and he said, “The sight of a vast concourse of people ought always to move us to pity, for it represents a mass of ignorance, sorrow, sin, and necessity, far too great for us to estimate.” Essentially that any crowded room should bring us great sorrow and urgency because within that room are souls, hungry and lost – souls searching and waiting for an answer to their hurt. They don’t look like it on the outside, and they certainly wouldn’t say it, but the gnawing in their hearts is real if they’d only admit as much.
In a sermon a couple of years ago, Matt Chandler said that people who have been Christians for a long time can start to walk around with this attitude of, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus." And it helped me realize that I lived a lot of my twenties where I said, through my thoughts and actions, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus," and waved him off like he was just a side item at the cafeteria of my life – something I could throw in the backseat and let him ride along as long as he was quiet. He could stay because I was going to need him at the gates of Heaven someday, but other than that he was an afterthought. He was second to anything I was doing. I mean, not always, but especially when it came to dating. I adamantly would not allow him in that corner of my life because I felt like he already failed me there. Because of the lies I believed in that arena, I’ve been shamefully timid, but not anymore. I yanked Jesus out of the back and put him behind the wheel. Now I want to embolden people to share the gospel and speak the name of Jesus. I want people to come out of the darkness and live with hope and faith and I’m a little afraid to suddenly step up and say all of this because I know I pretended it wasn’t the answer - that maybe it was just the answer for me and not necessarily other people. But it’s the only answer to everything going on in the world right now. It’s the only answer.
I called the store where we bought my engagement ring. The woman I talked to assured me that because of the Kimberley Process, implemented in 2002, they were confident that the diamonds they sold were conflict-free. I breathed out a little, knowing this bit of information, although at the end of the movie, they note that even with the Kimberley Process, conflict diamonds still enter the diamond trade. But a lot of bad stuff happens, regardless of the rules and regulations in place to stop it, so we just have to do our best to make sure we’re not participating. There will always be sin. There will always be terrible things happening in the world. And that’s why the gospel is so important. Only it can step into the darkest places. It can change the darkest heart. It can stop sin and sadness and hatred and violence in its tracks. Only it can give the validation and affirmation we're all so desperately seeking. And maybe people will say, "That's nice for you, but Jesus isn't for me. Keep that to yourself." Well, I'll be bold here and just tell you, you're wrong. Jesus is for everyone, and if you don't think so, then you haven't understood him correctly. If you think, "Well, I just don't believe that," that doesn't make it any less true. Pray for the faith to believe.
I just finished a Beth Moore study, but I read a lot of her tweets and follow her on Instagram, so I don’t know where I read this, but somewhere, plain and simple, she wrote, “May Jesus be obvious.” The cry of her life is, “May Jesus be obvious.” Amen. Can that be the banner over our lives? Since that’s what the world needs more than anything, can we just stand up and boldly live it? Stop living halfway. Stop rationalizing sin and start getting honest. Can we share the gospel? Can we contribute our little piece to this larger story by just living and being the very picture of love in the midst of seemingly insurmountable hurt? Look for lonely people. Show love. Share the gospel. And make Jesus obvious.
For the record, I don’t think the world is a terrible place. It’s a terribly broken place, but there’s a lot of Light too. And we need more people bold enough to speak up about it.
“Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech…”
2 Corinthians 3:12