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The importance of perspective

— Every day headlines are filled with awful news about bloody wars, mass shootings, tension over nuclear arms, refugee crisis, ethnic cleansing, and natural disasters. Recently, an issue of Time Magazine put a spotlight on the fact that headlines don't tell the whole story. Despite all the terrible news, by many important measures, the world is actually getting better! This is not trying to see things optimistically, it's backed up by data. For instance, the number of children who die before their fifth birthday has been cut in half since 1990. This means 122 million children have been saved in 25 years. Countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child. Extreme poverty has declined by nearly half in just 20 years. More than 90 percent of all children in the world receive a primary school education. In the US, we are far less likely to die on the job or in a car accident than our grandparents were. Now, this does not mean we can downplay the fact that much is still in disarray. But having a perspective adjustment means we can be inspired and re-energized by progress made.

This outlook reminded me of the Kingdom of God parables in Matthew’s gospel. They are earthly, and sometimes heavenly stories with an emphatically earthly meaning. They explain the full meaning of what Jesus was up to. He announced that God's rule was at hand, ready to be grasped. But then and now people object. If it had really come, the world would not be in such a mess. And on one level, they are right. If God's Kingdom coming to earth as in heaven means the complete abolition of all evil and death, then, of course, it is not here yet. Those stories in Matthew 13 tell us, full victory remains for the future, but that doesn't mean nothing is happening. A grain of mustard seed is tiny, but it grows into a large shrub that birds can nest in. Jesus shows that small beginnings are not to be despised. Kingdom of God seeds may not look like much, but they will grow. The story about yeast displays that even the tiniest amount of it will make a whole loaf of bread rise. The work that Jesus did while on earth may have seemed small and insignificant. He probably never traveled more than a few hundred miles from home and met only a small number of people. He probably never preached before kings and rulers. He authored no books, and yet the kingdom work he did in a short time, in a backwoods place, has leavened the loaf of the whole world. Almost everybody dates world history in relation to his birth. His way of love, forgiveness, humility, and service has woven itself into the fabric of many cultures and societies. His kingdom is also still meeting sharp opposition, but it keeps growing.

Jesus is still looking for people who learn from the seed and yeast story and who want to take his kingdom-movement forward to see God's rule sweeping through the sad, decaying world we live in. This goal is worth more than all other treasures. To be part of it is the greatest privilege imaginable. So, let’s adjust our perspective, put our trust in Jesus and join him in the work he does!

Volhard Graf is with Youth With A mission, Kamiah.


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