How do we respond to the devastation of September 11, the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Many responses come to mind: Prayer. Care for the injured and bereft. Increased security, increased vigilance. Just punishment for the masterminds behind the carnage. Sharper on-the-ground intelligence-gathering. Stronger international cooperation against terrorism. Congregational immersion in Scripture stories of God's people who lived through radical loss and destabilization, from Joseph to Daniel to John, Peter, and Paul.

But there is one more response: American Christians will want also to become better global citizens.

Hit in the solar plexus

Since the so-called end of the Cold War, many of us have not given much thought to the rest of the world except as occasional business, tourist, or short-term mission connections. Those days of ignorance are over. We have been hit in the solar plexus with the truth that that we are globally connected and cannot cut loose.

In his bestseller on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman describes a label on a computer part that reads, "This part was made in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, China, Mexico, Germany, the U.S., Thailand, Canada, and Japan. It was made in so many different places that we cannot specify a country of origin." We are globally integrated as never before. Yet many of us have continued to live cocooned in our own little circle of friends, walled off from people who are different. To think about the rest of the world overwhelms us. Masses of data pour over us, jumbled in sound bites that juxtapose great human tragedies with beer ads. We know that even the internationally minded—American expatriates and missionaries—have made mistakes. How can ordinary citizens like you and me know enough to make intelligent comments on global issues?

"Whenever I think about those people over there, I worry," one churchgoer said recently. "And I know God doesn't want me to be worried. So I've decided he doesn't want me to think about them." Another Christian says that's why she doesn't read the newspaper anymore. The news disturbs her, and surely that isn't the will of God.

Pray through the newspaper

Christians should be different. Of all people, Christians are to love our neighbors. When our neighborhood expands to include the globe, then we're called to love globally. How? Some of the most important steps may be some of the simplest:

  • Pray through the newspaper, especially the world news section.
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  • Befriend foreigners who live in your city.
  • Develop strong relationships with your church or denominational missionaries.
  • Ask members who are business owners to talk about their global involvements.
  • Go to a local college and find out whether there's a group of local "friends of international students."
  • Ask your high-school and college youth what they're studying about global issues.
  • Teach a church class on the biblical basis of mission, tracing global issues from Genesis to Revelation.

And we should strive to do this without a patronizing smile, at arm's length. Loving our neighbors means something more. It means being vulnerable. It means entering into their pain. When God in Jesus came to live among us, he shared our troubles and felt our hurts. Do we empathize with those in other countries?

Globalization has hurt a lot of people. Although transnational business has brought a lot of wealth to other countries, people in those countries suspect that transnational corporations—most based in America—are reaping the lion's share of the benefits. This breeds a love/hate feeling toward America.

In the article "Globalization as a Challenge to the Churches in Asia Today," published in the October 2000 Asian Journal of Theology, Yong-Hun Jo of Korea writes that poverty levels in Asian countries have worsened as globalization has bloomed. Although the article's tone is moderate, and recognizes the benefits of a vigorous economy, it also speaks of bankruptcies, destruction of jobs, massive unemployment, a sharp rise in prices and decline in wages, capital flight into tax-free zones, the reduction of public services, environmental degradation, and a growing distance between the rich and the poor. At present 34 percent of the children under age 5 in Southeast Asia are underweight, as are 50 percent of the children in South Asia. Half the people in the world live on $2 a day or less.

And when labor must follow jobs in a borderless world, many leave behind spouses, children, and parents with whom they would have traditionally spent much time. Globalization obliterates family closeness.

Do we feel that pain? The prophet Amos blasted God's people because they did not grieve for hurting people: "Woe to you who are complacent in Zion and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation. … You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs. … but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph" (6:1-6)

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"Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food," writes James. "If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (2:15-17).

There are many macrostructural and microstructural ways to reach out to these needs, and we must develop skills in these areas. At the same time, we must never forget evangelism. Economic programs may teach methods, but evangelism will unleash the meaning and the motivation to use those methods conscientiously.

The healing of the nations

Our government and military is responding to the devastation of September 11 at several levels, but for cozy and complacent Christians, this tragedy has been a personal wake-up call. There's a big, real world out there and it is not negligible. We cannot ignore the pains of other peoples without danger to ourselves—from huge hungry populations, from environmental degradation, from religious terrorism.

Becoming global Christians does not mean a paternalistic relationship with believers in other countries. It means being siblings under a heavenly Father. We have much to give in answering some needs, but our brothers and sisters have resources we can no longer live without. We must listen, for example, to how believers in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia have learned to live with the constant threat of terrorism (see "The Hard-Won Lessons of Terror and Persecution," p. 20). We must learn from believers in Rwanda and Croatia about forgiving known and unknown enemies. And believers in the Near East have much to teach us about responding to extreme forms of Islam.

The Earth—all of it—is the Lord's. All of Scripture rings with this. God's concern for global issues didn't begin when Jesus said, "Go into all the world" or "You shall be my witnesses." Thousands of years earlier, Abraham heard God call his name, saying, "I will bless you, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen. 12:2, 3).

Isaiah saw the people of God as a light to the nations (42:6). Habakkuk saw the "earth full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (2:14). Micah saw that "his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace" (5:4-5). Jonah, Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, and even Naaman's slave girl saw God's care for the nations. All of Scripture resonates with God's absorbing interest in the whole Earth. We cannot be healthy American Christians today and ignore the world. A global concern is not optional. It comes from the heart of God.

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In his brief commentary on Revelation, For the Healing of the Nations, Justo Gonzalez paints two biblical futures. Glimpsing them may help us find a place to stand in the wake of these attacks:

There is a vision according to which all peoples and nations and tribes and languages must bow before the beast and worship it. This is the vision of Nebuchadnezzar: "You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that. … you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up" (Dan. 3:4-5). There is a vision that takes for granted that there will always be a great harlot who sits upon many waters; and these waters are the many nations and tribes and languages and peoples who must bring their wealth to her . …

But that is not the vision of John of Patmos. According to his vision, out of these many nations and tribes and peoples and languages, God will build a kingdom in which all have royal and priestly honor. According to that vision, a great multitude, from all different nations and cultures, will jointly sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty." . …

We must be multicultural, not just so that those from other cultures may feel at home among us, but also so that we may feel at home in God's future. … because like John of Patmos, our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; because we know and we believe that on that great waking-up morning when the stars begin to fall, when we gather at the river where angel feet have trod, we shall all, from all nations and tribes and peoples and languages, we shall all sing without ceasing: "Holy, holy, holy!"

By Miriam Adeney, a ct editor at large and associate professor of world Christian studies at Seattle Pacific University.

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