On October 31, 2011 the world’s population officially reaches 7 billion. That means 7 billion persons loved passionately, relentlessly, and sacrificially in ways beyond our merely human comprehension. To mark this notable “milestone,” here are a few other “theodemographical” reflections.
7 billion exceeds my mind’s grasp. Much of the world’s population concentrates in a relatively few places, however, and I am regularly in some of those places, such as Lagos, Nigeria with its 25 plus million and nearby Ibadan with its 26 plus million. By any measure, these two cities are mega-cities, filled with teeming masses of humanity, and yet even they combined are dwarfed by 7 billion!
In the world’s mega-cities so many people have no place and scant shelter if any at all. Many have little food and no access to the most basic life-sustaining and life-generating services or support systems. In the midst of such profound need, hardly anyone has a voice that registers anywhere on human ears. Thus, news of more people signals something sober and serious indeed. News of more does not seem like good news.
“Theodemographically” speaking, this news of more should deepen our understanding of the extent and scope of the gospel’s targeted embrace. We are reminded that 7 billion are loved and therefore 7 billion are to be served and helped because that is what love does. We are reminded that despite appearances to the contrary, the hope of the gospel reaches toward every one of the 7 billion.
It’s hard to envision love for 7 billion. We can at least begin to understand that God loves you and me, and yes many others too. We do understand that all there is to us—past, present and future—all that we know and don’t know about ourselves—all of this and us God, the Father, Son and Spirit, looks upon and reaches toward in love. Imagine that loving look and reach 7 billion strong!
Consider the complex mix of thinking, feeling, deciding, wanting, acting, and reacting—on each individual’s own part and also on behalf of and affecting each one from the others in his or her life producing the joys and woes of 7 billion people. And, consider that all of it registers on the heart and mind of God in the same way the joys and woes of our nearest and dearest register on our mind and heart. Imagine the weight of wonder and woe a 7-billion-and-counting-love bears.
Consider the risk of God putting it all out there—total humiliation, utter rejection, unfathomable brokenness of heart, complete abandonment, unspeakable torture and the dimming and dying of all human senses collapsing together in the perfect storm of sham justice and shameful execution—such comprehensive risk multiplied 7 billion times when, in each case, there remains an open question as to whether anything but the pain will ever come of it! Indeed, recall the pain that you yourself have experienced over some deep loss, or imagine the pain of others whose losses strike you as incalculable. When you have multiplied this by 7 billion you begin to sense the potential for God’s grief born of love.
Consider the enormous mountain of guilt, the universal gap of distance, the impenetrable barriers that separate any one of us unholy and sinful human creatures from the One who rightly inhabits the Holy of Holies. Then, do the math to cipher what it could mean for love not “to give up” in a 7 billion and counting sort of way.
How huge God’s love is. How risky to lavish it over time and space so that up to 7 billion might benefit—might benefit. How incredible, boundless, stunning such love never ceases to be. How blessed are the beloved, whether they know themselves that way or not. And how blessed it is to be among those who are learning to know themselves as the “beloved.”
Of the 7 billion, 29-32% identifies themselves as Christian, 19-23% as Muslim, 7-23% as Buddhist, 14% as Hindu, and 8-31% as other. What this means is that more than 2/3 of the world’s population has yet to fall into our God’s embrace. That is, 4.7 billion do not know they are loved; do not understand that the One who made them and everything else seeks them out for the pleasure of their becoming all they were ever meant to be; and they have no sense of the heights from which they’ve fallen as persons minted in God’s own likeness and destined for more than they could ever imagine. The 4.7 billion have little or no clue about any of this.
Most of the 4.7 billion live in a part of the world where no one has named Jesus as the great Lover of all, where the way of Jesus has never been seen, and where the kingdom of Jesus has yet to materialize clearly and compellingly. Therefore, for most of the 4.7 billion the potential for loss is huge, the urgency of their need is great, and the call and constraint of a 7 billion and counting love presses hard.
Most of us writing or reading such things, with leisure to indulge in “theodemographic” rumination, are among “the beloved.” And if we are not careful—very careful—many of us will come to treat the 7 billion, the 4.7 billion and other related stats as factoids handy for playing Trivial Pursuits.
A 7 billion and counting love, however, draws us to great exploits in Eternal Pursuits. Each one of us in multiple ways can live, and speak, and care, and serve, and respond, and dream and act in ways that have loving impact on at least a few of the 7 billion. Every one of us can! Every group that joins us together as church can become a church for the 7 billion, as well as for the folks closer around us. Every one can! And every single person in love with Jesus, held in his embrace, is where he or she is, and has various capacities and opportunities that can be part of what the great Lover is doing the world over to claim his beloved 4.7—7 billion. Every single person can!
We must not allow the fact that we can’t do everything keep us from doing something. And we must never assume that when we are doing the relatively little bit we can do that there is not actually more going on than we know!
According to the well attested “Laws of Theodemographics,” to be embraced is to embrace. To be held in God’s love is to be held in the Arms that passionately, relentlessly, and sacrificially seek still others to embrace.