“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
This line penned by Erasmus in the 16th Century makes the point that when people cannot see for themselves, they will follow whoever has a little sight.
We live in an age when one-eyed kings rule the earth. The one-eyed kings have a limited field of vision, only see things from one perspective, have a one-dimensional view and they love the power and attention they get from the blind. They produce polarised societies where single issues often dominate and alternatives to their own point of view are demonised and dismissed.
I need to be careful here, I have a recurrent problem with a plank in my own eye that hinders my ability to identify the specks in other people’s. But I am convinced we are seeing significant change.
Witness the revival of nationalism – “Make America great again,” “Put Australia first,” and “Brexit” all emphasise regaining control of borders and destiny. Or the growing secularism with opposition to the influence of religion in the public square. Debates about “the right to die with dignity,” or the care of the environment, the rights of indigenous peoples, and sexual identity divide people around the world. We have seen the rise of politicians of consensus over conviction and a growing correlation between extremism and populism.
The obvious shortcut to building a support base is to identify the enemy and use that to build a sense of belonging. Just because something is popular does not make it right. Jesus made it clear that in the last days people will gather around those who say what their itching ears long to hear.
We also need to be wary of the one-eyed king phenomena in the church – those who advance their own prosperity while selling the dream of advancement to the poor, who criticize other churches to build their own influence, or who teach an ideology of cultural relevance disconnected from scripture.
The one-eyed kings both inside and outside of the church are helped by the decline of quality journalism and the growth of social media as many people’s primary source of information.
The actor and director Denzel Washington was asked to comment on “fake news.” The reporter may have been hoping for a more sympathetic response than Washington gave: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read it, you’re misinformed.”
“So what do you do?” asked the reporter.
Washington said, “That’s a great question. What is the long-term effect of too much information? One of the effects is the need to be first, not even to be true anymore.”
“So what responsibility do you all have? To tell the truth. Not just to be first. But to tell the truth.”
For Christians, knowing and telling the truth centres on Jesus. Truth is not just propositional, it is personal. Jesus is the truth.
There is one King who sees with total clarity and who opens the eyes of the blind. He is different from the one-eyed kings. He was dismissed by the crowd, who brayed to Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar.” He was crowned with thorns, dying on a cross beneath a sign that said “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” And he rose from the grave to initiate the dawn of a new kingdom that will last forever. He is the King of kings and his reign will outlast all others.
Knowing the truth is not easy in a culture where anything inconvenient is labelled as fake. Social media feeds prioritise features and opinions based on what we “like.” Listening to alternative viewpoints, seeking to understand the nuances of an argument and having a regard for those of different persuasions takes initiative. We need to cultivate conversation alongside connectedness and have a vision for Christ-centred community that encourages a different way of thinking and models a different way of living.
TSCF is a counter-cultural movement that believes Jesus’ agenda is distinctive from all others.
During the last supper, a dispute arose between the disciples as to who was the greatest. Jesus underlines the essential difference between the way he leads and the way leadership is practiced in the world: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
This radical perspective on leadership comes from the all-seeing King. It is a vision that TSCF embraces wholeheartedly. We work to model servant leadership and to mentor a generation of influence who will be change-makers in public service, education, business, church, sport, the arts, family and community. This leadership is for the benefit of others, has a strong commitment to partnership over competition and is based on Christ-like character.
One-eyed kings have dominion over the blind; we are committed to Jesus’ mandate of opening eyes that are blind.
This year we have continued our emphasis on using the gospel in evangelism. The Rongopai edition of Luke’s gospel has seen hundreds of students able to explore the good news of Jesus for themselves. We continue to develop opportunities for students and graduates to consider how the gospel relates to the big ideas in culture. This includes promoting quality Christian books through Catalyst, small groups that are based in faculties and encourage engagement with academic ideas, apologetics training and events where the good news is explained.
This “true witness” leads to discipleship. We help students engage with the Bible in small groups, talks and conferences. We believe that God’s word is a light to guide and a lamp to our path. We need to help opened eyes navigate in the darkness. Understanding the scriptures in context and applying them to life and work is foundational to living an undivided life. This year our team of staff, interns and volunteers have been able to put more resources into training and enabling students to study the Bible for themselves.
One of the highlights of 2016 was the South Pacific Regional Conference. This is held every three years and it was our turn to host. It was tremendously encouraging to have students from around the Pacific including, for the first time, Hawaii. Events like this are a great reminder that the work of TSCF spreads beyond the shores of Aotearoa.
We continue to participate in IFES through regional partnerships with India and Papua New Guinea, the work of Ruth and Josue with CECE in Ecuador, Zac Smith serving with Interaction Teams in Italy, Chris Collins and Val Goold serving on the IFES Board and several staff working on global projects.
This year we have plans to host a team from Northern California, including some Pasifica students, and to send teams to Fiji and Greece. This is all part of participating in the great commission and of growing leaders who will help others see more clearly around the world. Our reach is global and our concerns transcend international borders and national interests. We need to pray for our one-eyed kings and respect the offices they hold even while we work for change.
We are thankful for all who partner with us in financial giving, prayer support and direct involvement. We participate in that new thing that Isaiah looked forward to, “to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” We have had a good year but there is so much more we need to do. Please pray for us that we would seek the Lord, listen to others and have clarity of vision as we move forward together.