This Christmas, we once again celebrate the gift of life in Christ. The Apostle John wrote, “In Him was life and the life was the light of all mankind.” (John 1:4, NIV)
While serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) several years ago I saw, for the first time, a time lapse photograph of the whole earth taken by satellite as it orbited the earth at night. It shows the pattern of light and darkness on earth in a way that is very disturbing for my African friends, because it graphically shows the vast disparity between those who have and those who have not.
Hope in the Midst of Despair
Graphic and sad as this photo is for many, things are moving in a hopeful direction. Compared to the year 2000, according to UNICEF, pneumonia will kill 625,000 fewer children this year; diarrhea will kill 663,000 fewer children this year; measles, 397,000 fewer children; malaria, 228,000 fewer children; HIV and AIDS 107,000 fewer children.
This year, 6 million fewer children will die before age 5 than in 1990. The work that Food for the Hungry (FH) and many other organizations have been doing faithfully in the “hard places” for many years is paying off. This gift of life is not only paying off, it is paying dividends.
Philip Jenkins is a noted Christian author and professor, now at Baylor University. He writes that in Africa alone, the total number of Christians (389 million in 2006) is growing 2.36 percent annually (“Believing in the Global South,” 2006).
On average more than 25,000 come to faith in Christ daily! Why is the gospel being so readily received? I would argue it is because it has a context of believable hope that includes hope flowing from the work that is being done so effectively in reducing the ravaging effects of poverty.
Serving in the DRC convinced me that where profound poverty exists, a “spiritual” gospel that is not accompanied or preceded by substantive meeting of physical needs is largely powerless. With 20 percent of the world’s population living on less than $1.25 per day and 40 percent living on less than $2 per day means there is plenty of work that remains to be done.
Powerful Kingdom Works
Works of compassion done in the name of Jesus are powerful Kingdom works. Even when dealing primarily with physical needs, there is an often unrecognized spiritual component. Though we can distinguish between the material and the spiritual, it is a mistake to separate them either in our thinking or our doing. The material, the physical, is saturated with the spiritual like a sponge saturated with water.
When John wrote that “In Him [Jesus] was life and the life was the light of all mankind,” he was conveying this powerful truth. Human life is not something that exists independently, separate from God. Referring to God the Father, the Apostle Paul said it this way: “There is … one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6)
Christ’s Gift of Life
The gift of life, for all mankind according to John, is the very life of Jesus. This does not mean that all know Jesus in a personal way, but it does mean that His life is the light by which anyone has hope and knows truth. When one does come to faith in Jesus, like the prodigal son and 25,000 Africans each day, one is simply coming home … to the source and substance of life.
This Christmas will you help Food for the Hungry “bring home” many who desperately need Christ’s gift of life?