Leith Anderson is president emeritus of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor emeritus of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He served as NAE president from 2007-2019, after twice serving as interim president. He served as senior pastor of Wooddale Church for 35 years before retiring in 2011. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Bradley University and Denver Seminary.
Growing up near New York City, I thought that where I lived was the epicenter of everything. It was America’s biggest city. Every year we took school field trips to the United Nations. The Yankees usually won. The city’s unofficial theme song concludes “If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere; It’s up to you, New York, New York.” Even as a teenager I didn’t know or care much about the rest of the nation.
It’s called parochialism — “a limited or narrow outlook, especially focused on a local area.”
The most famous verse in the Bible says that “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son” (John 3:16).
The Greek word for world is kosmos and includes the people I’ve never met and the places I’ve never seen. God’s love is the opposite of parochial.
As evangelical Christians who believe the Bible and follow Jesus Christ, we adopt God’s worldview and God’s worldlove. That’s why we seek the health of our nation and beyond. That’s why we are advocates for sanctity of life, religious freedom, families, the poor and vulnerable, human rights, racial justice, peace and creation care. These are issues where we live out God’s love for the world.
But what about evangelism? Isn’t eternal life more important than the health of our nation? Yes, of course it is. However, they are not mutually exclusive. Jesus came to “seek and to save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10) while healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor and paying taxes to both the temple and the empire.
There is a relentless pull toward our smaller worlds. It’s so easy to center on our ZIP code, our church, our traditions and everybody who looks and sounds like us. In our 21st century of polarized politics and regional exclusiveness, parochialism is comfortable and defensiveness is commonplace.
Instead, let’s be like Jesus who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus lived and died for the love of others. Let’s follow his example — “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4-5).
This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine.