I don’t use this title lightly, and I don’t want to be provocative simply for the sake of being provocative. But I think this title expresses a very important message, and alternative ways to say it, like “Give a hoot for Jesus,” just didn’t seem to get it across.
And let me further explain the background of this phrase, which may not have anything to do with profanity at all. Some understand the phrase to have originated about 150–200 years ago.
The rupee is the base currency in India today, worth about 1.5 cents. But originally the rupee was a silver coin. It was worth less than the gold mohur coin, but more than the old copper coin, which was called a dam.
I have a dam coin from the year 1517 and another from 1497, which dates them back five hundred years. The copper dam coin was in use during the British occupation of India, and to the British soldiers of that day, was virtually valueless.
So apparently when British soldiers were in the marketplace, people tried to sell them shoddy goods, and they would sometimes respond, “I wouldn’t give a dam for that!” — meaning they wouldn’t pay even a single dam for goods like that. Eventually the phrase took on the nuance, “I don’t care about that.”
So in this chapter, I want to talk about some important things that we should care about, namely, the gospel, suffering, and missions. And I want to look at suffering around the world and help us think together about how we should view that suffering and how we should respond to it.
What if God’s people gave a dam about suffering? What if God’s people gave a dam about the gospel? And stopped giving such a dam about money, reputation, success, what you drive, where you live, what you look like, who likes you, or anything else that isn’t worth giving a dam for.
The average age of children exploited and enslaved into prostitution globally is said to be twelve to fourteen years of age. Some six hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand women, children, and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex. When internally trafficked victims are added to the estimates, the number of victims annually is in the range of two to four million. Fifty percent of the victims are estimated to be children.
Do we give a dam?
The Call to Be Prophetic
A Chinese leader recently said, “The church needs to be a prophet and a servant.” Very simply put, a prophet could be described as one called to see circumstances as God sees them and to speak into those circumstances God’s message and truth to his people and to the world. And today the church, the people of God, has opportunity to be prophetic in a few different ways.
We can be prophetic when we look at the world and see suffering and injustice and say, “That is wrong! That is so wrong!” And say it not just amongst ourselves, but to the world.
We can be prophetic when we explain from God’s Word why it’s so wrong. Why such wrong is offensive to the God who created people in his image. Why such wrong is offensive to the God who is holy and merciful and compassionate. And when we explain the good, true, honorable, right, just ways and standards of God.
Because we have the Bible, every Christian has the opportunity to speak God’s word and ways forth prophetically into the church and into society and our world. And to be prophetic not just about things that society would agree with, but to speak truth and God’s honor about all that he calls us to speak.
And when you’re faithful in that prophetic speaking of God’s word, I think that’s when you have those moments of realizing, “Oh! That’s why so many prophets of old were killed!” In Micah 2:6, we see the people’s opposition to prophetic word: “‘Do not preach’ — thus they preach — ‘one should not preach of such things.’”
But Christians are to speak out about and care about all forms of suffering and injustice — poverty, racism, sex trafficking, homelessness, exploitation, or like Micah 2, preaching against materialism and oppression of the poor by the rich.
And when we do this, it is a wonderful witness of the compassion of the church. Society will even applaud this championing of these very right causes. But they won’t necessarily applaud our giving a dam about other kinds of injustices and heartaches and sins.
What are some of the sufferings and injustices that God would have us preach and prophesy about that the world around us doesn’t care to hear about and would respond with, “Do not preach such things!” Or simply, “Do not preach!”
In America, each year, 1.2 million unborn children are lost through abortion — their lives snuffed out, strangled, stolen. Globally 40 million lives were lost this year alone. More than 1 billion unborn children have been murdered in the last 30 years.
Christians are to speak prophetically against injustices and sins like abortion, homosexual practice, and materialism with teaching from the Word of God, from the perspective of God, speaking into society, resisting opposition, enduring ridicule for the alleviation of all kinds of suffering and injustice on earth. We need to do it with love, with humility, with integrity, and we need to do it with boldness and urgency.
The Call to Be Servants
Along with being prophetic, we as the church of Jesus Christ have the opportunity, the calling, to be servants. In other words, to give a dam about such suffering by doing something about it.
Servants meet the practical needs of others. So as the church, we should be involved in the freeing of slaves, in the protecting of the weak, in the clothing of the naked, in the housing of the homeless, in the adopting of orphans, in the righting of wrongs.
We are to speak prophetically and serve as servants those who are suffering and are in need: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18–19 NIV 1984). We are to serve the needs, alleviate the suffering of the fatherless, the widow, and aliens, sojourners, foreigners, strangers.
“More than 1 billion unborn children have been murdered in the last 30 years.”
There are almost one million international students and scholars around the world who have left their homeland to study and teach in North America. There are many of them on your campus, if you will just look for them. Many of them are the top scholars and future leaders of their nations. Globally 86 percent of Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims don’t personally know a Christian. But so many international students are from Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu nations — the very core of the unreached peoples of the world.
Did you know that most of the international students on your campuses will never enter a home while in America? What if you and your family gave a dam? To be a friend to an international student. To invite them into your home over break. To invite them to your church. To invite them into your life. You are to love those who are aliens, for yourselves were aliens.
God cares about all kinds of suffering and so should we.
It’s estimated that because of gender-based infanticide, abortion, malnutrition, and neglect, there are 160 million females “missing” from the world’s population. According to a ministry called She Is Safe, in the Nuwakot district of Nepal, there are whole villages with no girls over the age of twelve. All have been sold by fathers, brothers, and uncles.
Sushmita was sold for less than $100 to a trafficker when she was nine, presumably for a “good job” in India. Upon arrival she was drugged and raped to prepare her for a life of prostitution. Her forced labor included flights to the Middle East, as a high-priced girl. She was also used by her captors to go back to Nepal to tell girls what a fine life she had in India and to recruit them as sex slaves.
In one year alone, an estimated twelve thousand girls were trafficked from Nepal to the brothels of India. It is estimated that one hundred thousand Nepali women and girls work in brothels in Mumbai alone. Fifty percent of these have the HIV virus. There are three million prostitutes in India. Forty percent are young girls. Globally there are between twenty and thirty million people living as slaves.
And personally my heart breaks for North Korea. A United Nations panel heard testimony of a North Korean woman forced to drown her baby in a bucket. Children are born into prison camps and never know of the world outside. Prisoners are surviving on rodents, grasshoppers, lizards, and grass. They scavenge through excrement for morsels of food. Eight out of every ten women who escape North Korea reportedly end up being exploited in prostitution.
We need to give a dam for these people.
The Call to Suffer
Let me shift gears a bit and make another point about suffering. Not everyone wants to be rescued from every type of suffering. This particularly applies to Christians. And it’s not always God’s purpose to rescue everyone from every kind of suffering. And part of the Kingdom ethic may rightly and gloriously cause some Christians to increase their exposure to suffering for the sake of the alleviation of the suffering of others.
What do I mean? There is intense, deadly, pervasive, diabolical persecution of Christians going on around the world. I have dear friends in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who have experienced imprisonment, attack, burning of houses and churches, and have witnessed the death of friends. There is a political advocacy that we should work toward. A way to show that we give a dam. There are important legal and political processes and advocacy that are right and God-honoring.
We need to find ways to release pastors from prison. We need to find ways to help get Saeed Abedini released from prison in Iran. We need to advocate on behalf of Beijing Shouwang Church pastor Tianming who has been under house arrest for more than three years. We need to advocate for religious freedoms in China and North Africa.
But I can also say that not a single one of my friends sees political rescue as the end goal or even as the necessary purpose of God for their nation or people. Some Chinese friends of mine said to me, “Don’t pray for China to open. Pray for us to be faithful. And for God to be glorified through our suffering.” God sometimes chooses to use persecution and suffering for his glory.
I have a dear friend Alemu who is a key leader in Ethiopia. He has faced execution-style death and survived by nothing short of angelic intervention. That suffering has shaped his life and leadership, impacting mine as well.
There can be redemptive purposes in suffering. This is true for non-Christians as well. How many glorious testimonies have been told by those who have suffered, have cried out to God for mercy, and received the forgiveness of their sins and the rescue of their souls? Of course, suffering is not a blessing in and of itself, but suffering can be a blessing if it can somehow heighten the understanding of the reality of our need for God.
Blessed are those who know their emptiness, their need, their pain. But toward their rescue — earthly and heavenly — Christians need to be with, stand with, and serve those who are suffering. Christians must be there to compassionately point out the lessons of pain and point to the ultimate solution to pain in Christ.
Suffering for Christians can also be redemptive for others. The biblical Kingdom ethic and eternal perspective on life may rightly and gloriously cause some Christians to increase their exposure to suffering for the sake of alleviating the suffering of others.
Why is this not insane? Or why is such insanity rational? Why would a Christian choose to be less comfortable, less wealthy, less safe for the sake of others whom they don’t even know? Because Jesus Christ has already rescued us perfectly and eternally from the greatest possible suffering. Jesus has rescued us from our sin, rescued us from eternal separation from God; therefore we can choose to suffer lesser suffering — poverty, persecution, loss of family, friends, culture, comfort, finances — that others might have their rescue.
This is not a reckless exposure to suffering but intentional, missional, and glorious. Jesus’ rescue of your life eternally is what makes moving into a bad neighborhood sane. It’s what makes the insanity of generous, sacrificial giving to actually be sane. It’s what makes adopting a special needs child sane. It’s what makes the insanity of “throwing away your life” for missions sane.
Fellow Christians, you can choose to suffer earthly suffering because Christ has already rescued you from the greatest possible suffering. And you can choose to suffer earthly suffering and to sacrifice earthly sacrifices because through your life, through the gospel, through your presence, through your comfort of others, others who are suffering can come to know an eternal comfort and blessing.
Jesus took up his cross to show mercy and give salvation for sinners. He calls us in turn to take up our crosses, that others might receive mercy and salvation.
Change the World
One thing I love about this new generation of young adults is that there is such a desire to impact our world. And that’s true not just of Christians but the whole generation. But what I want to challenge us to think about is, what does world impact or changing the world look like for a Christian and from an eternal perspective?
A lot of young people might say, “Yeah, I give a dam about suffering. See these shoes? They’re Toms.” “Yeah I care — and somebody is wearing a free pair of shoes somewhere in the world because of me.” “Changing the world one pair of shoes at a time, baby!”
But as you look at your peers and look into your own heart, I just want you to know that changing the world is not as easy as some would have you think. It takes more than clicking “Like” for a good cause to change the world. Of course, it may look different from generation to generation, but what will stay the same is that making a difference costs, and costs dearly.
I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2013 to participate in Nelson Mandela’s memorial service as one of twenty religious leaders who had been invited to join the family on the platform. And as I sat there praying in the rain with tens of thousands of South Africans dancing and mourning and laughing and singing around the stadium, there were so many things going through my mind. We may not all agree about Nelson Mandela, about his methods or his morality. And I didn’t know the man personally, but I think we can pretty much all agree that he gave a dam. He gave a dam about freedom. And he gave a dam to fight against racism, poverty, and oppression. And he didn’t just say that he gave a dam, but spent twenty-seven years of his life in prison because of what he believed.
Mandela’s words before the court at the infamous Rivonia Trial in 1964, which he thought were very likely his last words before being condemned to death, stirred my heart as I read them on the plane to Africa.
During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Is there anything in your life that you are willing to die for? Is there anything in life that is worth dying for? That’s what we need to figure out and do something about. It might look different for different people. The world needs Christians who will live out the gospel in every sphere of society — in politics, business, law, sports, medicine, arts, engineering, education, and more. The world needs Christians who live boldly on behalf of every sphere of society — for the poor, for the oppressed, for the uneducated, the fatherless, even defending the proper rights of the unworthy.
What if Mandela had been an evangelical Christian and open about his faith and the impact of the gospel in his life? What if he had fought for the rights of the oppressed on gospel conviction and both lived the gospel and shared the gospel? His life impact could have been eternal and heavenly rather than “just” an incredible impact here on earth for a long, long time.
This world needs Christians who will stand for Jesus and stand for people — Christians who will represent Christ to the world for both earthly and heavenly good, for both temporary and eternal good. If — when — we give a dam about all kinds of horrible, horrible suffering in this world, when the world sees and knows that Christians give a dam, our witness is strengthened and we have greater opportunity and greater integrity and greater credibility to share the gospel.
But mute witnesses (even those who do good) fail in their witness if they do not share and speak of and explain and advocate and appeal for the gospel, those who give cool water but who mute the name of Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught, Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. Advocates for various causes rightly challenge people on the injustice of doing nothing. That is true and right for many causes. But how great an injustice it is to know about eternal suffering and do nothing. How great an injustice it is to know about hell and not help a single soul go to heaven.
Why do we need to give utmost attention to sharing the gospel? Because we want those who are suffering, and all people, to have Jesus. Anything less than knowing Jesus is not enough! It’s not enough to just know satisfaction from hunger, not enough for people to know their ABCs, not enough to drink clean water, not enough to have a home, not enough to be freed from slavery, not enough to be trained in a skill. We want them to know and worship and love and adore Jesus!
Some people talk about holistic ministry, but what they seem to mean is physical care without the gospel. We need to have holistic ministries of justice and rescue and advocacy. But to be truly integral and integrated, they must deal with the spirit, the soul, and give people a chance to hear the gospel and respond to the gospel. If we don’t share with them what can save them for eternity and what will allow them to know Jesus, we don’t really give a dam. Or we don’t give a dam if they are damned.
Another wrong is when we speak the gospel but live lives that belie our beliefs. This too is a failure in our witness for the gospel. There are those who speak in Jesus’ name, but curse it through their actions and character and lives. Those who call themselves champions for justice, but live unrighteous lives. A champion for ending the sex trade, but a slave to pornography. A champion for viral movements for Jesus, but not even praying. A champion for saving the world, but not sharing the gospel with your classmates or friends. A champion for Jesus on Twitter, but not in your neighborhood. A champion for ending poverty, but a chump to materialism. And you don’t give a dam, a penny, for God’s greatest cause. Those who speak the gospel but neglect to live out transformational lives, being both transformed by the gospel and acting as gospel agents, fail in their witness for the gospel.
Another failure in our witness for the gospel is when we live half-hearted Christian lives. Anyone who wants to find flaws in Mandela’s life and put them on display will find them. But one lesson that rang deeply in my heart when I was in South Africa was that we all have something to learn from him. I only wish for myself and other Christians to live as courageous and conviction-filled a life as his, especially for eternal causes.
Making a difference will cost you dearly.
To live sparingly for the right cause with the right theology is nothing to be proud of. We are to love and cherish and enjoy all that we have in the grace of God. But we are not to abuse it nor use it as an excuse to live half-heartedly for Jesus. Jesus deserves and demands all of who we are and the whole of your life, and honestly I don’t think there’s a better way to live that life than as a missionary. It is one of the greatest privileges of my life to be a missionary.
My Own Story
My own calling to missions starts with the story of suffering — the suffering of my family. My father was born in 1936 into a Korea that was not free. No, not North Korea, but the whole nation that was under the control of Japanese imperialism. My father, Sung Kyu Oh, was born with the name Hideo Matsuyama, a Japanese name, as a subject of the Japanese Emperor.
My great-aunt was married off as a young teenager to avoid becoming one of two hundred thousand so-called “comfort women” — sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army — women and girls as young as twelve years old who endured rape dozens of times per day. In the thirty-plus years of Japanese Imperialism in Asia, an estimated thirty million lives were lost. So my calling to Japanese missions began not with compassion for their poor or to help provide clean water, but a difficult call to obey Christ’s command to love my enemies with great hope to see my former enemies become my brothers and sisters through the gospel.
And I want you to know that God is at work in Japan, one of the largest unreached people groups in the world! The ministry continues to be difficult in what many consider to be the most difficult mission field on the planet. But we are seeing a wonderful season of fruit-bearing in Japan. Our seminary, Christ Bible Seminary, has almost tripled in size over the past few years. Future leaders are being trained for the Japanese church.
I had the privilege of baptizing seven people in April 2013 for our church plant. We’re ready for our next round of baptisms. We’ve had college students pray to receive Christ right on the first floor of the seminary in our Heart & Soul Café. And yes, I’m still in Japan serving as a missionary. After I accepted the invitation to serve as director of the Lausanne Movement, I was asked, “When are you moving to America?” I replied, “I’m not. Lausanne is moving to Japan!”
The missionary life is not glamorous. It’s pretty mundane at times, except when it’s painful. But it’s an incredible blessing to be a part of something that really does change the world and really does make an impact that lasts forever.
So why don’t we have more missionaries? I think one big reason is that we believe we’ll be happier doing other things and that being a missionary is kind of miserable. You have to raise financial support. Miserable. You have to leave your family. Miserable. You have to learn a new language and culture. Miserable. And you have to learn to get along with complete strangers on your team whom you don’t even get to choose. Potentially quite miserable.
But James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (NIV 1984). J.C. Ryle talks about how if this is true, then there is no blessing found in sin. If there was a good gift in sin, it would have to come from God, and no sin comes from God. So stop thinking that somehow those in sin are to be envied or anyone apart from Christ is to be envied or that anything anyone has apart from Christ is to be the right object of your longing or affection.
Missions also is very much about obedience. And that’s a pretty unpopular message today. Ryle says, “We think that we would be absolutely miserable obeying God. That was the devil’s argument in his temptation of Eve, but it is as diabolical now as it was then.” And I think there are a lot of people who think the same way about missions. Will there be suffering? Yes, absolutely! Will you be miserable in obeying God? Absolutely not!
If we turn away from such good, the goodness of such obedience in missions, we’re not turning toward happiness but away from it. Do not say, as Ryle warns, “If I live for God, I’ll lose out.” You may lose out on the things that don’t last, that do not satisfy, that do not feed your soul; but you will gain things eternal, things that satisfy, things that feed your soul. You will gain more and more of Christ.
If you give a dam, would you consider giving your life as a missionary?
Not Everyone Is a Missionary
You may have a few days, from time to time, of human regret as a missionary. But you’ll celebrate the fruit for ten thousand times ten thousand years! But whether missionary or not, all Christians are to be a part of God’s mission in this world and the mission of the church. That doesn’t mean that everyone is a missionary. As has been written very clearly in this book, not everyone is a missionary. But all Christians are to be a part of God’s mission in this world.
We obey locally (as evangelists and those who live as salt and light in our societies), and we send globally, sending missionaries to those who have not heard. All of us are to play the role of senders. There is no Christian who should not be a sender. Romans 10:14–15 gives some insight about the role of missionaries and senders:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”
So, first of all, we have those who have never heard the good news. They are to be a priority. There is to be urgency about reaching such people.
One of the key concepts and strategies for global missions today is unreached people groups (UPGs). This was introduced at the first Lausanne Congress in 1974. An unreached people group is a distinct ethno-linguistic people that has less than a two percent evangelical Christian population and less than five percent Christian adherents. According to the Joshua Project, today there are more than seven thousand unreached people groups in the world, which amount to almost three billion people.28 More than six thousand of the UPGs are in the “10/40 Window” — a rectangular region of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia from about the 10 degree north latitude to 40 degrees north. This mission strategy was introduced by Luis Bush at the second Lausanne Congress in 1989.
Nearly three thousand of these unreached people groups are completely unengaged. That means that there is not a single church, not a single mission agency, that has taken responsibility for that unreached people group. There is no gospel witness at all. Within these three thousand unengaged, unreached people groups, there are 533 of them with populations more than twenty-five thousand. Might there be 533 people reading this chapter that God would raise up to engage those 533 unengaged, unreached people groups?
Romans 10:14 says that people cannot believe in him of whom they have never heard. And also that they cannot hear without someone speaking the gospel. So there is a personal communication that is essential to belief in the gospel. This is where the missionary comes in. Missionaries have this distinct privilege and responsibility to bring good news to those who have never heard. And for those who hear and believe, we have the glorious promise of Romans 10:13 that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Then we have Romans 10:15, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” So we learn here that missionaries are those who go somewhere, especially to those who have never heard. And also that they are sent, and this is clearly the role of the church, of all of us. How do we send? Biblically speaking, I think we can point to at least two concrete ways.
First, in this passage we see that missionaries are sent as those who are cherished: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” We should see missionaries — plain, awkward, weak, sinful, insecure, poorly dressed missionaries — and think, Beautiful! How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. Rather than be annoyed or disturbed when a missionary comes to you or your church asking for help or financial support or to be housed or prayed for, we should welcome them, love them, and cherish them.
And a second biblical way to send is through giving a dam. A vitally important way to love and cherish missionaries is through financial giving. And I’ll tell you, I really think that talking about money and giving is one of the least popular topics for Christians today. Want to know the quickest way to lose followers on Twitter? I’ve figured it out. Ask people to give money. If you ask for money to fight trafficking, it’s actually okay. You’ll gain some followers. But if you ask for missions giving, I guarantee you will lose followers.
Jesus lost followers talking about money too. But that didn’t stop him from preaching about money. Jesus’ ministry was financially supported by believers. Paul requested financial support for gospel ministries. Paul also received support for his mission journeys.
The apostle John tells us how to treat missionaries in 3 John 6–7 (NIV 2011): “Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans.” Mark 12:41–44 (NIV 2011) says,
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”
The widow of Mark 12 gave a dam — she gave two dams — putting in her two copper coins for God. Hers is the example of the extravagant giving of little, the little that was her all. It was a costly, worship-filled giving. Not long ago, I received an e-mail about a donation for the Lausanne Movement from a pastor in Dar es Salaam. He wrote,
From Tanzania all Tanzanians live on under $2per day on average. We need prayer and good leaders to move forward
The rich become richer and the poor are too poor. I am leading a church with just 120 believers.
I am sending for Lausanne $300.
That’s like an American church of 120 people sending a $30,000 offering. We all need to be challenged by the extravagant giving of little by the poor. And others, many of us, are called to the extravagant giving of much. Like the pouring of perfume upon Jesus’ head in Mark 14 — which was 300 denarii worth, and would be more than $30,000 today.
Let me encourage you now, whether you’re a college student or done with school, to commit to giving at least ten percent for the church and at least ten percent for reaching the unreached. Ultimately, giving is a heart issue. If you give a dam, you’ll give a dam. If you don’t give a dam, you won’t give dam.
There is also a lifestyle issue because generosity is enabled and empowered by financial stewardship and lifestyle simplicity. The less you spend on other things temporal, the more you have to spend on things eternal. But that too is a heart issue, isn’t it?
Too many of us, it seems, have lost the understanding and theology of giving as worship. Giving to the church and giving for missions is worship to God! But instead we’ve learned from this world that we are sovereign individuals (accountable to no one) who act as sovereign consumers. We assume that we are sovereign individuals who exercise sovereign decision-making as sovereign investors, whether stocks, cars, fashion, electronics, houses, or retirement. Instead, giving should be an act of worship by submitted stewards to a worthy Lord. Every dollar spent is a vote on value. It’s an act of worship; what’s important to me, what I love.
If you give a dam about people created in the image of God; if you give a dam about eternal salvation or eternal damnation; if you give a dam about the adoration and worship of God; if you give a dam about the gospel; if you give a dam about God, then give. Give a dam. Give two dams — even up to your last two coins’ worth.
What’s at stake here? What’s the ultimate opportunity and what’s the cost? Because there is a cost. It’s costly to give a dam. It’s costly to try to make a difference. It’s costly to preach. It’s costly to live prophetically. It’s costly to care about hell and talk about it openly and do something about it. But it’s even more unbelievably costly for those who go to hell.
Hell and damnation are not apart from God. The purpose and existence of hell is not evil. And damnation is not evil. God has absolute, holy authority over hell and damnation. As Virginia Stem Owens wrote in the Reformed Journal years ago,
Let us get this one thing straight. God can do anything he damn well pleases, including damn well. And if it pleases him to damn, then it is done, ipso facto, well. God’s activity is what it is. There isn’t anything else. Without it there would be no being, including human beings presuming to judge the Creator of everything that is.29
The reality of God’s absolute authority and also the reality of eternal damnation are absolutely stunning and humbling and convicting. It leaves us with nothing but the plea of mercy.
It is a great injustice to know about hell and not help a single soul get to heaven.
Jesus says in Luke 12:5, “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.” God has authority to send to hell, and he does so justly and mysteriously as well to his glory. We should not speak casually about hell. And we must not be silent about hell either. That would be unjust. It is unjust to not give a dam about damnation.
So let’s give a dam. And let’s be faithful in the whole of our gospel witness. Biblical witness bearing is:
Holistic, all-encompassing, sufferers embracing, life transforming, and persecution facing; Person activating, orally explaining, detail expressing, intellectually engaging; Salvation-in-Jesus adoring, cross-of-Christ bearing, repentance imploring; Response demanding, sanctification inciting, never-the-same rejoicing, hands-feet-mind-mouth inviting; “Jesus is the only way to heaven” declaring, “God have mercy on me” shouting, and testimony sharing; Grace and mercy extending, suffering alleviating, “I’ll suffer with you, I’ll suffer for you” sacrifice instigating; “I’ll go to the ends of the earth for you, Lord” insanity producing, “Be reconciled to God” proclaiming, Christ exalting and me reducing; “I’ll lay down my life for you” demonstrating, “Here are my last two coins” giving motivating; Reality of hell recognizing, eternal suffering warning, new home in heaven with no more death, pain, or mourning; In light of eternity, urgency inspiring, proclamation and demonstration of the God who’s worth desiring.
Christ’s invitation to us to take up our crosses is the call to suffer and sacrifice. Would you increase your suffering and sacrifice for the alleviation of others’ suffering? Would you do it as a love offering to the Lord?
Suffering Earthly and Eternally
What can we understand about earthly suffering? It’s unavoidable. It can be alleviated either in degree or duration. It’s temporary. It’s sometimes unjust and sometimes undeserved. It always has the potential to be instructive. And it can be redeemable, if those who suffer can learn the lessons of pain and the solution to pain in Christ. Redeemable if those who suffer can find the greatest blessing of knowing Jesus. And if we give a dam, we’ll do something about earthly suffering, as the church, for the Lord’s glory and for the good of the world.
How about eternal suffering? Unlike earthly suffering, eternal suffering is avoidable. It cannot be alleviated either in degree or duration. It’s eternal. Irreversible. It’s always just and deserved. And those who enter into eternal suffering are beyond redemption.
So if we give a dam, we’ll do something about it, as the church, for the Lord’s glory and for the good of the world. While we still can.