The International Justice Mission reports that there are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today.
Some slavery today takes the form of relentless, meaningless labor. Some of it takes the form of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Whatever form it takes, we can barely get our minds around that number. Twenty-seven million people enslaved. We don’t know what to do or where to begin. We are prone to ignore it, or if we choose to face it head on as we should, we are tempted to lose heart.
In his classic Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis explains the Christian virtue of ‘hope’ with these words:
A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking . . . It does not mean we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next . . . The English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven, and you’ll get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you’ll get neither. (p. 119)
In his second letter to the church in Corinth Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart.” A close reading of the letter reveals that he had good reason to lose heart; his present was marked by affliction and suffering. But against the backdrop of eternity, these afflictions were seen as “slight” and “momentary.” Paul lived with a profound awareness of things unseen and because of that he was able to say “we do not lose heart.” Lewis helps us understand that this is not escapism.
Slavery is a real issue today. But it is not the most real thing. Paul and C. S. Lewis remind us that what we see impacts our influence in this world far more than what we feel. Losing heart is not resisted by pumping up our emotions. We fight against losing heart by getting a vision for a world we cannot see. When it comes to slavery or poverty or hunger or homelessness, remember: a mind occupied with heaven will leave a mark on earth.
What is the most “real” thing in your life today? What reality most occupies your mind?
Gracious God, we are constantly urged to give attention to what we feel. We ask today that you would make us equally aware of what we see. We ask you to give us a vision for your presence in afflictions and troubles that surround us. Open our eyes to things unseen that we might live for your glory in this world. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.