Commentary

Miracles happen when we take God's mission to heart

Originally Appeared in : 9815-7/19/18

The dramatic and successful rescue of the soccer team and their coach in Thailand has the world breathing a sigh of relief. Twelve boys and their coach were trapped deep in a cave system where they’d gone to explore while on an outing. Just finding the team in the labyrinth was itself miraculous. The rescue effort was even more so.

 

What is remarkable about this rescue mission, apart from the entire team surviving, is that we see what human beings are capable of doing when they are united, apply their God-given talents, and are willing to sacrifice even their own lives for the well-being of others.

 

When we contemplate what was involved in the rescue effort, we see that this “miracle” was in fact a collaboration of many skillful people who came up with a plan. The plan was executed at a particular time with great forethought, and with the knowledge that the timing was risky. It was determined that waiting longer would lead to greater danger as the monsoon rains filled the cave. Waiting until the monsoon season had passed was rejected while the air supply in the cave was dropping.

 

Thirteen expert divers, five Thai Navy Seals, medical personnel, and, of course, the leadership team, developed a rescue plan. Sadly, as the plan unfolded, one diver lost his life having attempted to place air tanks inside the cave. His death was clearly not in vain now that the children and their coach have been rescued,.

 

The boys’ coach taught them how to meditate, a practice that relieves anxiety. A doctor remained in the cave with the team to monitor their health. Each used his or her gifts to support the mission. People all over the world watched the media coverage of the mission and prayed for the boys’ safety.

 

Indeed, for us Christians, the word “mission” is more important to this story than the word “miracle.” Certainly, favorable circumstances were conceived and engineered to support the rescue efforts. Some could say that the presence of so many creative and heroic rescuers represented a miracle. But we can be confident that had the people not turned all of their skills and talents to the well-being of those trapped children, the miraculous rescue would not have happened.

 

It is this lesson the people of God need to derive from the story of the trapped boys. As Christians, we are called on a mission, to build the kingdom of God. What does this kingdom look like? It is best described in the words of Jesus himself, who quoted the prophet Isaiah when he proclaimed his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4: 18-19)

 

As anointed followers of Christ, we are to follow him on this rescue mission. And who are we called to rescue? Those who are in imminent danger, including the poor, the imprisoned, the oppressed, and the blind (including those who are ignorant or hard-hearted to the needs of others).

 

If every Christian took this mission seriously, imagine the kingdom we could build if we united behind this rescue mission and used our gifts, talents, intelligence, time and treasure to make it happen.

 

What prevents us from doing so? We may feel as if our efforts are useless. We might feel the suffering is so great and the problems so daunting that we cannot make a difference. Yet what if the rescuers of the soccer team had allowed insurmountable problems to affect their determination? The alternative, allowing the boys and their coach to perish, was unthinkable.

 

How is acceptable to Christians that our brothers and sisters are perishing because of poverty and lack of health care?

 

How is it acceptable that people, with God-given dignity and potential, languish in a prison system more punitive than rehabilitative?

 

How is it acceptable that so many of our brothers and sisters are imprisoned by addiction, mental illness, homelessness, and the threat of gun violence?

 

How is it that we remain blind to racism, greed, and income inequality so extreme that the eight wealthiest people on the planet have as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent?

 

How is it possible that we fail to address the serious threat of climate change, a form of oppression so serious as to immediately threaten millions with starvation, and perhaps ultimately to destroy the earth?

 

How can Christians ignore their mission to promote peace? War is one of the most oppressive acts of mankind, and its victims are always the most vulnerable, who are too old, weak, young, or poor to escape the violence.

 

Jesus embarked on his mission by revealing God’s great love for all people, and he aligned himself with those in his society whom others were quick to marginalize and scorn. It has become a common refrain in American society to find fault with the oppressed people rather than their oppressors. Christians must not fall for this attempt to scapegoat the poor and marginalized. Of all people, we Christians must know that we will find Jesus among them.

 

Finally, we must each be willing to sacrifice in order to bring about God’s kingdom. Like Saman Gunan, the diver who surrendered his life for the benefit of the cave rescue mission, we must be willing to sacrifice, if not our lives, then our security, our material wealth, our comfort, and our gifts, for the sake of God’s kingdom.

 

None of us can do enough on our own, but together, with God’s grace, we can work miracles.

 

Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at maryhoodhart@gmail.com.

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