July 14, 1992
Living in Moose Jaw has been something like living on a deserted island — most news is local to the point we pick up an Alberta newspaper twice a week just to find out what is going on in the rest of the world! However, there is some advantage to deserted-island living — the news from the rest of the world is generally depressing. Who wants to hear about it, much less be involved in it? Isolation seems to be safer.
Not that smaller communities in Saskatchewan are problem-free — the scandal from Martensville attests to that. Local news in our town involves conflicts over funds for the new library, whether or not to build a spa to attract tourists and discussion over the value of the latest provincial legislation and how it will affect the farming community.
There is one benefit to isolated living though — we find it easier to relate to what is happening on the other side of the world in Russia. There, communist leaders choose isolation from capitalistic free-enterprise systems for seventy years and the entire Soviet bloc has lived in a world apart, a deserted island of sorts.
Now as the borders are opening up, the western world has been invited to come in and the results of isolation are becoming evident. For example, the Soviet economic system is almost a fantasy. A recent visitor to Moscow reports purchasing a steak dinner, salad, and all the fixings for himself and a friend for the U.S. equivalent of 40 cents — yet a pair of running shoes costs a Russian six months wages. No farmer can raise a 20 cent steak so government subsidies make up the difference. Also, children can sell cans of pop on street corners and make more money than their parents who have professional careers.
Up front, their deserted-island living may have sounded like a paradise, but it robbed the Soviet citizens of some very real benefits. Refusal to rub ideas with ingenious and resourceful capitalists has resulted in economic chaos, wide-spread hunger, despair and hopelessness. Insulation from what they thought were the undesirables of the world has cost far more than was gained.
Sometimes Christians are accused of hiding from life too, and of having a head-burrowed-in-the-sand mentality. Sometimes it does happen as an attempt to create a deserted place to hide from evil and sorrow.
However appealing the concept, I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when He indicated His people were in the world but not of it. He plainly offers abundant life for those who follow Him and live godly lives, but Paul added that “those who live godly shall suffer persecution.” So even the godly will have problems. The full life Jesus was talking about includes both joy and sorrow, and there is nothing Biblical about hiding from either one.
Drawing the idea out more broadly, all of us are like the nation of Russia or the isolated communities in our country — if we try to protect ourselves from some of the bad we will lose out on some of the good too. And just as Russia slammed the door on free-enterprise only to find they shut out economic freedom and incentive along with it, Christians who opt out of experiencing all of life will miss that abundance Jesus talked about.
For that reason, even in the relative safety of where we live, God does present challenges to get us off our deserted islands. Without some risk, there is no need for faith. Rather than give in and hide, we are called to abundant living, with all of its ups and downs, a radical kind of living that when others observe us, they must immediately conclude that no one could live like that unless God is involved.