• Steven Marsh

Thriving As a church in a Globalized World-Challenges Presented to Religions by Globalization: a Ref

Noble Doss dropped the ball. One ball. One pass. One mistake. In 1941, he let one fall.

The University of Texas football team was ranked number one. Hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl, they played conference rival Baylor University. With a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, the Longhorn quarterback launched a deep pass to a wide-open Doss…The throw was on target…The sure-handed Doss spotted the ball and reached out, but it slipped through. Baylor rallied and tied the score with seconds to play. Texas lost their top ranking and, consequently, their chance at the Rose Bowl.

“I think about that play every day,” Doss admits.

Not that he lacks other memories. Happily married for more than six decades. A father. Grandfather. He served in the navy during World War II. He appeared on the cover of Life magazine with his Texas teammates…He won two NFL titles with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texas High School Hall of Fame and the Longhorn Hall of Honor include his name.

Most fans remember the…passes Doss caught. Doss remembers the one he missed.[1]

Relationships are important. We are wired by God for them. The biblical word “community” describes this phenomenon as “a group with common interests.”[2] Community then, for Christians, is a group of people with the common interest of demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by loving others. And “globalization” is about community. In his book Flourishing, Miroslav Volf notes, “…world religions are the original globalizers—culture-shaping forces with distinctive accounts of what they deem to be universal human values.”[3]

As Christians, the unique culture-shaping idea that we offer for the good of humanity is the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. That’s one relationship I hope no one misses. In Colossians 2:13-14 Paul writes, “And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.”  Paul contends that there is a fundamental disjunction, between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God. Paul is not categorically rejecting the validity of human wisdom; he is not anti-intellectual or anti-education. Human perspectives can only go so far, however.

Personal transformation is given to us in Christ. In our baptism we have been made a member of the household of God. Through faith in Jesus Christ we have, in our baptism, been cut off from the old life of the flesh. This is the disarming power of the gospel; unconditional love. As we are rooted, built up and established in the faith, ever choosing the truth of Christ over everything that competes against it, surely we will be, as Paul says, “abounding in thanksgiving.”[4]

In Luke, Jesus taught his disciples to pray as he prayed. Praying as Jesus prayed recognizes God as God; acknowledges God as holy; asks God’s kingdom to come now; asks God for daily food; asks God for forgiveness; asks God not to lead us into temptation; and demonstrates the human spirit’s yearning for reconciliation with God.

The resources we have are not to be privatized. No one is to miss out. They are for the community…the interconnected human community. Luke tells the story of a man who went to a friend, at a very inconvenient time, and asked him to lend some bread because a friend had showed up at his house and he had none. We are not the source of anything we have. All that we have is given to us by God. There is always enough. Again Miroslav Volf reminds us that globalization gives us “a high level of interconnectivity, in which information, goods, and services flow increasingly freely.”[5]

The challenges of globalization that face the world’s religions are: interconnectedness is structured in ways that give some people a head start and leave others scrambling just to get to the starting line; unprecedented economic growth; the spread of the rule of law that clashes with global criminal networks; and individuals are preoccupied with their own personal pleasures and pains while at the same time involved with the world’s sufferings.[6]

Racism, injustice, and hate threaten the global community. Yet, God is for us and not against us… despite it all. Christians must live the salvation message, in word and deed, for the sake of the common good. Claiming the power of God’s covenantal faithfulness, we must invite others to say “Yes” to God’s unconditional love for them in and through Jesus Christ.

We are like the prophet Hosea, calling humanity to unity, reconciliation, and justice in Jesus Christ. With David in Psalm 85, we affirm that God restores a repentant people. The apostle Paul reminds us to be reassured that simple faith is all we ever need, because of the profound mystery of our baptism.[7] With Luke, let us learn the power of dependence on the One who promises to provide for the human family.

Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Words and actions have implications. Humans are created to be “meaning makers.” [8]  All people are on a quest for meaning and the world religions each have an outcome for the quest. Proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed is our unique voice in the plurality of religious voices within the globalized community of humanity. Even with our misses, let’s keep catching the ball.

[1]Max Lucado, Fearless (Thomas Nelson, 2009), 31-32.

[2]Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 55.

[3]Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2015), 39.

[4]Colossians 2:7

[5]Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World, 35.

[6]These challenges adapted from Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World, 36.

[7]Idea gleaned from Richard L. Eslinger in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 285.

[8]This idea taken from Rodger Y. Nishioka in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 280.

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