Throughout history the world has seen monumental movements of an oppressed people rising up against corrupt leadership. Recently we’ve seen crowds in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Iran, and Bahrain rise up in protest against their rulers. These events are sure to become a history lesson for future classes of students. Leaders who have rigged elections and limited freedoms for years are on the brink of losing power, and the people—the common people—may soon have a voice.
The dynamics of what is happening in Egypt and other countries are complex. And while former President Hosni Mubarak has ceded power to the military, the long-term outcomes of these events are uncertain. For American young people, the events in Egypt can be downright incomprehensible.
One element of the Egyptian protests that will resonate with youth is people wanting their voices to be heard. To suppress the people’s voice, (now former) Mubarak’s government shut down Internet in the country so that protesters couldn’t use online tools to organize and share information with people around the world. Many American teens can understand the severity of a government shutting down the Internet to silence its people. How difficult would it be to communicate and to stay informed (or to have a social life) without the help of the Internet?
Mustard Seed Mentality
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. Though the seed is tiny, it grows into an enormous plant. “It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13:32c, CEB). Like a mustard plant, the recent movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere started very small. But in a short span of time, the movements have grown and now have global impact.
When a group rallies around a cause, the result can be good or bad, transformational or destructive. But young Christians can learn from these recent demonstrations that, when people come together around a common purpose, they can do incredible things. And this generation, perhaps more than any other, has access to the tools and technology that can cause significant change when people rally together.
Something to Live For (and Die For)
Youth minister, scholar, and author Kenda Creasy Dean, in her new book Almost Christian, identifies four traits of committed young Christians: They have a powerful story about God; they have a sense of belonging to a committed faith community; they demonstrate a sense of vocation; and they have profound hope. She points to the need to offer young people a ministry of mission where they can live out their faith in a community empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world.
In Egypt and other places, we see groups of people coming together in hopes of changing the world for the better. This is what Jesus has called the church to do. Gary Haugen, the president of the International Justice Mission, has said: “God has a plan to help bring justice to the world and his plan is us. There is no back-up plan.”
The church is God’s chosen instrument of change. As your group thinks about the events in Egypt and elsewhere, invite them to imagine a church that would rise up against evil and oppression and change the world in godly ways. Encourage them to think about their part in that movement as the church connects and works together to love, serve, and bring God’s light into dark places around the world.
This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here. (Photo credit: Omar Robert Hamilton via Flickr)