If You Were the Last Person On Earth

Earlier this year, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a Minister for Loneliness to address what she has referred to as “the sad reality of modern life” for many people.

Recently, I read an article online about how there are more people walking around with anxiety and depression than at any other time in history. 

The percentage of teens and pre-teens that struggle with body image and self-esteem issues continues to rise--up 6% from last year and nearly 10% from two years ago. 

As I was pondering all of this today, I started reflecting on how Christians often struggle to respond to these kinds of issues, and the negative effect our struggles to respond have had on our overall witness as Jesus followers. 

What I've come to believe is that far too many Christians have defined their understanding of God's redeeming story in negative terms.  They can't get beyond the belief that God is inherently angry, and people are inherently awful, and their responses to the real problems of our day are shaped by that understanding.  

We can do better.  The Gospel is bigger than that.   God's love expressed through Jesus Christ is expansive, radical and all-encompassing. And this Good News should fill those of us who are among the lonely, broken and depressed with a defiant hope. 

Theologian Paul Tillich was fond of saying: 
Faith is the courage to accept acceptance, to accept that God loves me as I am and not as I should be because I'm never going to be as I should be. 
There's no need to qualify God's love by preceding our proclamation of it with words that tear down, demean, diminish or reinforce negative self-talk.  No one who is struggling with loneliness, depression or self-image issues needs to have their noses rubbed in it.  

Instead, we should employ words like those used by the late Brennan Manning, who wrote: 
The mystery of our faith is this:  God loves us and Jesus Christ would have died for us, even if we had been the only person on earth. 
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.   

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