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 Vol. 6, No. 11 

November 2004


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Image Tragedy of Tragedies

Matthew 16:24-27

By Louis Rushmore

This world is no stranger to tragedies! Modern, catastrophic events bring to mind the tragic loss of human life. However, untold millions anciently also died horrifically in natural disasters, widespread disease and military conflict.

Relatively modern history alone chronicles the tremendous and tragic loss of human life. For example, between 1918-1920, about 22 million people around the world died of a flu epidemic. A single earthquake in 1923 killed about 120,000 people in just two cities in Japan. A tornado ravaged southern states in our country in 1925, killing 689. More recently, within our lifetimes, an earthquake in Turkey killed over 17,000 people. The Twin Towers terrorism of 9/11 killed about 3,000 people in one building complex, besides those who died at the Pentagon and the southwestern Pennsylvania airplane crash. About 50 million innocent babies are aborted around the world every year. Very recently, an estimated more than 160,000 people from 11 countries died from an earthquake and tidal waves in Asia. Truly, this world is no stranger to human tragedy and the heartbreaking loss of lives.

As awful as the catastrophic loss of human life is, the greatest tragedy of all is for one soul to be lost (Matthew 16:24-27). This, of course, does not minimize the human tragedies in either the recent or distant past. All loss of life is tragic. Sometimes we are simply numbed by the sheer number and horrific nature of human tragedy. However, it is important to prioritize spiritual things foremost in the lives of Christians and in congregations of the Lord's church (Matthew 6:33). Every child of God is obligated to love God foremost (Matthew 22:37). God must be above family allegiances, too (Matthew 10:37).

Christians and the church that they comprise have an overriding, God-given mission to evangelize the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). That means that the primary mission of the Lord's church is to broaden the borders of the kingdom of God -- 'disciple the nations,' ASV. We spend too much time (and money) concerned with incidental and peripheral matters (i.e., padded pews, air conditioning, lawn care, etc.). Yes, by biblical implication and correct inference, it is right to have church buildings with all of their trappings, but Jesus commanded that we take the Gospel to the whole world.

The affect of Christians like the apostle Paul and those who labored with him was to 'turn the world upside down' (Acts 17:6). That means that the early church saturated the world, one community at a time, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes the church was called "that way," referring to the way of life characteristic of Christianity that was spreading around the first century Roman world (Acts 19:9, 23; 24:22). Christians and the church have the divine mandate of taking the 'whole counsel of God' to the whole world (Acts 20:27).

Though everywhere the apostle Paul went preaching the Gospel he normally had a great Gospel meeting or a riot (or both), comparatively few souls became Christians through Paul's efforts in Athens (Acts 17:34). It is possible also that after the dust clears from deliberate efforts to evangelize any community that few will obey the Gospel. Yet, usually some will obey the Gospel of Christ as in Athens when Paul preached there. Still, it is the Christian's responsibility and the church's obligation to tell people about Christ, which if we do, we are successful as far as God is concerned (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Consequently, Christians and the church need to be aware of the lost world and amply motivated to reach it with the Gospel. As an apostle, Paul was gravely aware and concerned about many congregations in the first century (2 Corinthians 11:28). Since he had great dedication to the cause of Christ, he was willing to endure great persecution, affliction and deprivation for the advancement of the church (1 Corinthians 11:23-27; Philippians 3:4-8). Likewise, each elder, deacon, preacher, teacher and all other members need to have an unquenchable interest in and concern for the welfare of the church and those who comprise it (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Yes, this world is no stranger to tragedies, but the greatest tragedy of all is for one soul to be lost. What will really matter when this life is over is whether our souls are saved. What will really matter when this life is over is have we tried to take any with us to heaven.

Surely, no one wants to be a statistical entry in either the catastrophic loss of human life or the unthinkable loss of souls in eternity. Erring Christians can save themselves, whereby they can lead the way for other souls as well to find eternal salvation (1 John 1:9). Unbaptized believers can save themselves by humbly submitting to baptism for the remission of their past sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 3:25).Image

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