What’s the story?
As a New Year dawns, various international situations make the world seem a little more uncertain, and a little less safe than before. Although the rise of President Trump and his escalating war of words with North Korea has amused many and even pleased some, it remains one of the key destabilising factors in a global picture characterised by war, poverty and worrying political trends.
Since taking office in January 2017, President Donald Trump has barely spent a day out of the headlines. His divisive and often offensive comments – much of the time shared through the instant medium of Twitter – have made him the most talked about and explosive figure on the planet. He arguably remains the most powerful however, and as his escalating conflict with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shows, this can sometimes have ramifications way beyond looking a little silly online.
North Korea’s apparently successful race to develop long-range nuclear weapons has already been a cause for great international concern. However, Trump’s public handling of the nation has stoked tension between the US and Korea, and stoked fears of a global nuclear disaster among people everywhere.
At the same time, several major international situations remain unresolved – some of which also directly involve Trump. He has escalated tensions in the Middle East by referring to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and announcing plans to move the US embassy there. His comments around immigration and what he referred to as ‘s***hole countries’ attracted global condemnation, but only added to a growing international picture of rising racism and nationalism.
Elsewhere, the crises in Syria, Yemen, the Central African Republic and other nations remain and in some cases worsen. And closer to home in the UK, the looming shadow of Brexit – the nature of which is becoming increasingly confusing – has created the greatest sense of instability in the nation since the 1970s.
The overall picture then, is of great uncertainty about the future. The world does not feel safe, or stable, and for many this is actually a time of growing fear. If the church does not have something to say to the world right now, it perhaps never will.
What have others been saying?
The Guardian has a comprehensive section on its website, charting the daily developments in the situation around North Korea. Donald Trump features heavily.
Mark Woods at Christian Today has a helpful reflection on Trump’s ‘s***hole countries’ comment, exploring a Christian response.
American magazine Christianity Today has interviewed Christian leaders in the Middle East to understand what Trump’s embassy move really means for those close to the situation.
#1 – TRUSTING GOD IN UNCERTAINTY
One of the most striking elements of the incredibly-familiar nativity story is found in the various interactions between humans and angels. When angelic beings appear to Mary, Zechariah and the shepherds across the first two chapters of Luke, their greeting is always the same. Each time heaven speaks to earth, the first message the people hear is ‘do not be afraid’: not just because the encounters themselves were scary, but because the times in which these people were living were hugely fearful and uncertain. As Jesus arrives in the world, the angels tell the people that in some way this event indicates the end of their worst fears. God has come near, and opened up the way for direct relationship with himself. He can be known, and He can be trusted, even when everything else in the world seems like it can’t be. As we look into an uncertain 2018, we can be confident that this is still true: that heaven still says to earth: “do not be afraid.”
#2 – WORRY
Perhaps one of Jesus’ most challenging commands to his followers is the call not to worry. In a famous section of the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 6: 25-34, Jesus says “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself”, and even spells out many of the daily concerns that we can naturally wrestle with. Jesus’ point is that we should live in the moment and concentrate on what is in front of us today, not because that’s some sort of psychological trick to keep us sane, but because God is in control of the bigger picture.
Points for prayer
- Pray for all who are feeling anxious or fearful about the state of the world in 2018, that they would be comforted.
- Pray for tensions between the US and North Korea, that they would be de-escalated and that relationships between the two nations would improve.
- Pray also for the North’s relationship with South Korea, that events such as the Winter Olympics, which both nations will attend, will help to strengthen and improve diplomatic relations between the two.
- Pray for peace in the Holy Land – as the Bible commands – and that American involvement would not destabilise the region.
- Pray for the nations which begin 2018 in crisis, at war, or in the grip of poverty, famine or the aftermath of disaster, that God would intervene miraculously and through his church.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.