Thank God for Turmoil!
By Norman Grubb
Wherever we go today, we hear the same: “On the International scale (or national!) everything seems too dreadful for words, and so utterly hopeless, and it seems that even the statesmen of the world are beginning to realize it.” I don’t see it like that. I say, Thank God for turmoil! The healthiest thing that can be! While there are wrongs to be righted, there should be turmoil; and as there always will be such wrongs in one form or another, there will always be turmoil! The turmoil is the spirit of self-centeredness which has taken man over since the fall. The law of the universe, in other words, the only way the universe will work, is God who is nothing but self-giving love, no matter at what cost to Himself. All, therefore, which is His opposite – self-loving love – is broken law, and that is turmoil, as all broken law must be.
There can therefore be no answer to the world’s turmoil but God, as He appeared in flesh-form as Jesus Christ and now as this Risen Man – love in visible form. But we do not now mean just the Jesus Christ of history, the Christ of the creed, still less of a crucifix. We mean the contemporaneous Christ of whom Paul spoke when he said, “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh yet now know we him no more.” That is the Christ who takes flesh again in the bodies and personalities of those who have received Him. Spirit to Spirit, are now that self-giving love in expression.
So if we say that The Person of Christ is the unifying factor in a world of turmoil,” we say, “Yes, The Person of Christ manifested by persons.” The unifying factor, therefore, starts only by being the unifying factor in me. Only if I am unified, can I be a unifier; for to be unified in Him who is love can only mean to be unifier. Abraham first saw this when the revelation of God’s glory to him meant that he was not only to be blessed, but in being blessed, he will be a blesser: “I will bless you and make you a blessing.” The sermon on the mount, which starts by poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger, ends by fullness of mercy to others, making peace between others.
Therefore we have this clear. The cessation of turmoil is the replacement in me of the spirit of self-seeking which always produces turmoil, by the spirit of self-giving love. This becomes a fact in every member of the human race who, having found his need, takes his place by faith as crucified with Christ which cuts him off from that old “spirit of error” and self-loving love, and as risen with Christ which unites him to the “Spirit of Truth” and self-giving love.
The unified then becomes a unifier, as we help others to find in Christ the “Peace be still” to their inward storms; and they in turn become the unifier of others.
But by no means all find this peace and become peace makers. The heartbreak of Jesus on earth was that if He was a blesser to some, He was an offense to others. The plain paradox is that the Gospel of peace brings a sword, and there are the many who “hate the light and will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.” A soul-winner is also a cross-bearer, whether from the platform or the pew. So we are not to say that Christ as the unifying factor brings peace on earth. He does not. He sets one against the other, right into the family circles. It must be so. We say again turmoil does not have its source in outward conditions, but in inward attitudes; and attitudes which remain rooted in the fallen spirit of self-centeredness must always produce turmoil, and it is good and right that they do. They spot-light the hidden festerings. They are the wroth which shuts us up to mercy.
But there is an indirect sense in which the person of Christ can be said to be the only approach to a unifying factor in a world of turmoil. It is by the infiltration of His Spirit into world affairs where He is still personally unacknowledged. There are today, vast differences from a few centuries ago: there is concern, mercy and compassion where man’s inhumanities to man were formerly commonplace. The very idea of democracy from the Magna Carta up to the Constitution of the U.S.A., a government of the people, by the people, for the people, has only taken root as a world ideal from the Christian ethics. Medical services for all, concern for the underprivileged, education available for all, equality of opportunity, and a hundred other commonly accepted standards in a modern state, have the same origin.
That is why, speaking as an Englishman, I think you Americans underrate God’s plan of blessing to the world through your nation in our generation. You are too self-condemning. This is the era in which God has raised up this nation for world benefit, even as He used Britain for a century to preserve freedom in the world and the spread of the Gospel.
This nation has shown much of the compassion of Christ in international affairs. The restoration of the two enemy countries of World War II to prosperous nations in twenty years, West Germany, and Japan under General McArthur, is one example of this. The Marshall Plan with financial rehabilitation for Europe is another. Foreign aid to many backward nations is another. Surplus food, Peace Corps activities, firm defense against Communist aggression which would swallow up the weaker Eastern nations, are some of the other instances. I believe God is well pleased that this Nation shows the Christian spirit in many respects. Even the United Nations is not, in my opinion, the whipping boy most of us make of it. It is an attempt to acknowledge what we ought to live in peace with each other. We cannot. Self-loving selves can never make ultimate peace with self-loving selves. But at least we do what we can to maintain a patched up peace, and the U.N. does that. I say, Thank God for a U.N. Far better through verbal bricks at each other across the Assembly Hall than fire guns. Surplus steam blown off through a safety valve is better than an explosion.
The same with Civil Rights and the present turmoils. They are a healthy sign. It means that here is a nation which has conscience enough to sense the shame of their suppression of the Negro, if no longer as slaves, yet as second class citizens; and who, rather than blanket our misdoings permits them open expression. It does involve sufferings and martyrdoms; but out of this is arising a new recognition of the nationhood of the Negro, and God will use this. “White Power” has given us whites conscious nationhood for several centuries, with benefits to the world. Now we will see how God will take up Negroes with their new sense, not of being inferior blacks who wish they were whites, but of being as proud of their negritude as we of our whiteness; and through the Negro race, as far as the kingdom of God is concerned, will come a new army of Negro world wide witnesses to Christ.
The same can be said of the ferments and turmoils of the new independence of many lands. It is the glorious birth of a new day. There was some turmoil in 1776! Do we now regret the birth of that nation?! Do we not say that from this has arisen the nation of God’s anointing and God’s choosing for our day? So from a new independent Congo, a new Nigeria, a new Indonesia and all of them, are arising national churches, each with their distinctive characteristic witness to the Christ of all the world.
But one thing must now be said, Jesus himself, though unceasing in his compassion and use of his healing powers, did not involve himself in any campaigns which had human betterment for their aim, whether political or social, neither concerning Roman colonialism nor slavery, though his opponents tried to involve him such. Nor did Paul, nor are there any references of that kind in the Acts or the epistles. The reason is obvious. To have linked the gospel of the kingdom with a political or social cause would have disastrously diverted all attention from an absolute to a relative end. Social and political changes do not change the heart. The self-centered remains self-centered still, but only a little better placed to indulge their self interest. The only true present change or ultimate unifying factor in the whole world is, not when persons are bettered, but are made betters of others, whether themselves bettered or not. So Paul told slaves, if they were slaves, not to care about being slaves, because they were the Lords free men! Because freedom from self is true freedom from slavery, and gives the freedom to free others from self-bondage, in the “not I but Christ Life”. Daring standards. And in writing to a slave owner, he does not discuss the principle of slavery, but quietly reminds him that a redeemed slave is “not now a slave, but a brother beloved.”
That explosive gospel, ringing down the centuries blew slavery to bits and raised up men to dedicate their lives to its abolishment: and is now in process of blowing racial inequality to bits in this country and raising up men and martyrs for that purpose. And it has blown and is blowing a great many other horrors to bits – sweated labor, suppression of women’s rights, slums, starvation, colonialism, class distinctions, war and the rest.
Where now lies the balance between these two? Between the gospel in its direct relationship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in individual lives, and the indirect influence of the life and teachings of Christ on political and social conditions in the world? The answer is that truth is a person – The Person – Christ is the truth. Love is a Person – God is Love. It is plain, therefore, that the heart of truth is nothing but this personal relationship with Him, and the introduction of others to Him in that relationship.
When living this life in union with Him, He may commission any of us, when the right moment has come (the “in due time” of the scriptures) to be seized of the need of social or political changes, the “in due time” being some stirring of the national conscience of the need of this change. The hour struck for a William Wilberforce, as a dedicated servant of Christ, to give his life to get the abolition of slavery through the British Parliament. The hour has now been striking for Martin Luther King, at the price of his life, to get the wrongs of the American Negro redressed. Thousands of others in the name of Christ have responded to a life’s calling to heal the sick, feed the hungry, educate the illiterate, redistribute excessive wealth, change oppressive laws, and they have been God’s commissioned servants. Many others, not confessedly Christians, have done the same, and God only knows to whom one day He will say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of these little ones, ye did it unto me; probably to far more than we think.
But back to this fact again: In their perfect balance the Scriptures never confused the primary with the secondary. Human betterment does not touch the issue of man’s ultimate need, and is no substitute for the imperative of the new birth. The best of social improvements is not in the same category as the Gospel. No. A missionary does not go to bring physical healing to the lepers, but to turn lepers into healers. A leprosy patient, who finds wholeness in Christ, gets busy bringing that wholeness to other lepers, whether physically healed or not, and this alone satisfies the heart of the missionary.
What do we say then? Is the person of Christ the unifying factor in a world of turmoil? Christ as The Person, unifies only those in whom He lives as their life. Their eye is single on Him, and their whole body full of light. Christ as The Person brings a unity among all who receive Him for He is the Head of which they all are the body; though it is a unity which is not uniformity, but a vivifying diversity in the interpretation and application. But Christ is also the dividing factor in a rebel world, a savor of death as well as of life, the Cross an offense as well as a means of redemption. Until Christ Himself returns in person, and the devil is bound, He will not be the ultimate unifying factor.
Meanwhile, though not directly in person, but indirectly in principle derived from Him, Christ is the true cause of the vast changes in human relationships and behavior. Some servants of Christ find their calling in helping to bring about such changes, and to some extent every individual Christian or local church has a responsibility to expose human wrongs, proclaim human rights and meet human needs. But such involvements are not a substitute for the meaning and ministry of the Gospel. If they are that, they are a snare and a delusion. They are a secondary service. They are a by-product. Christ is the unity. The end is when God gathers together in one all things in Him. The end is when at His Name every knee shall bow. The end is when we all form one perfect man, having “come unto the measure of the stature of His fullness,” when all is love because God is love. Meanwhile, recognizing facts as facts, it is great to be in a fomenting world as pioneers of the age to come.