Over the following ten weeks, the w e e k l y w o r d will present excerpts and summaries of the ten chapters from part two of a book I hope to finish sometime before the Second Coming. The working title is “BRAVE NEW EUROPE – who will shape it?”
Part One of the book describes Europe in a time of megashift in worldviews – perhaps towards a new paganism – as the remaining ‘baggage’ of Christendom is jettisoned.
Part Two unpacks ten imperatives necessary to recover faith, hope and vision for Europe’s future.
The first is:
1. ASK! …what is God’s will for Europe?
Our search to recover hope for Europe begins with this simple question: what is God’s will for Europe?
If we have a sneaky suspicion God’s patience is exhausted with Europe, that prodigal Europe has squandered all her chances, that God has foreordained Europe to become the end-time Beast, then we will certainly find little ground for hope. Somehow we evangelicals seem to have a hangover from nineteenth-century teaching that things were destined to head
downhill towards the end of history.
But if we were to conclude that fatalistic pessimism did not square with the Bible’s revelation of God’s person, his plans and promises, perhaps we would be prepared to look at Europe’s future with a fresh open
At the risk of sounding naive then, let’s ask: Is it God’s will for God’s will to be done in Europe?
The answer of course is yes! By definition. God wants his will to be done – here in Europe!
Then why is there such a lingering Europessimism among
‘Bible-believing’ Christians? Why do we seem reluctant to believe God’s will could – even partially – be realised in Europe?
Ah, but what is God’s will? And who can presume to know it?
HOPE AND HEALING
Frank Buchman gazed out from high above Lake Geneva in Switzerland on what was surely one of the world’s most breath-taking vistas. The snow-sprinkled French Alps stretched before him along the blue lake waters towards Mont Blanc. Above him towered the turrets of the eight-storeyed Caux Palace, Switzerland’s largest and most prestigious hotel when built in 1902.
But what most inspired the Lutheran evangelist, on this July day in 1946, was his inner vision. He had no doubt what God’s will was for a Europe emerging from the chaos, rubble and suffering of World War Two. For
decades he had preached a message of submission to God’s will for individuals and families, and also for kings, presidents and nations. Now, after the turbulent years of global conflict, Buchman was leading a global movement known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA) in the task of remaking the post-war world.
His vision of individuals and nations living in common obedience to God was becoming a concrete reality that day with the re-opening of Caux Palace as a Centre for the Reconciliation of the Nations.
Just weeks before, ninety-five Swiss Christian families had given sacrificially – family jewels, life insurance policies, holiday money and even houses – to purchase the run-down asylum for war refugees. Re-named
Mountain House, the palace was to become a refuge of hope, a place for healing the past and forging the future. Over the coming years, thousands upon thousands of politicians, educators, trade unionists, captains of industry, students, journalists, artists, businessmen and religious leaders from across Europe and the world would come through its doors.
As Buchman entered the cavernous reception hall, he surveyed the colourful gathering where delegates from across Europe, some in national costume, mingled with flag-bearing youths, Swiss donor families and volunteer workers.
Suddenly he asked out loud, “Where are the Germans?”
A stunned hush fell over the crowd.
“You will never rebuild Europe without the Germans!” he added, breaking the awkward silence.
Although a year had passed since hostilities had ceased, Buchman’s question still shocked many of those present. But he knew if Germany was not embraced by Christian forgiveness and reconciliation, godless forces of anarchy or communism would fill the post-war vacuum. For him, forgiveness and reconciliation were clearly part of God’s will for Europe in 1946.
“I hated Germany so much that I would have liked to see it erased from the map of Europe!” confessed Ir√®ne Laure, a member of the French Resistance at the next summer’s conference.
“But I have seen here that my hatred was wrong. I want to ask all the Germans present to forgive me.”
Those Germans present at Caux that summer were among the first of over 3000 leading citizens given special permission by the Allied authorities to travel to Caux to meet their opposite numbers from Europe and other continents. The message of forgiveness and reconciliation taught by Buchman and demonstrated by Ir√®ne Laure affected them deeply. They invited Mme Laure to address many of their L√§nder parliaments.
The following year, 450 Germans visited Caux. Among them was Dr Konrad Adenauer, the future German chancellor, who invited MRA teams to bring the message of forgiveness through travelling musical shows, and arranged a series of official receptions for Buchman. In the heavy industry area of the Rhur many marxist trade union leaders were converted, and the resulting moral transformation was seen as a significant factor in the recovery of post-war Germany.
Meanwhile, the French Prime Minister, Robert Schuman, had heard that remarkable changes of heart were taking place in industrial circles in the north, where tensions had led to talk of civil war. The changes were
traced to Caux. So in 1948 Schuman arranged to meet the MRA leader.
Buchman’s ensuing friendship with both Schuman and Adenauer fostered a change in attitude between the two leaders from mutual suspicion to respectful confidence. This trust was to culminate in an event now
celebrated annually throughout the European Union on May 9, known as Europe Day. For on that date in 1950, the French Government accepted a bold plan, proposed by Schuman and supported by Adenaeur, to integrate the coal and steel industries of France and Germany, and of any other European country who wished to join. Since these industries would be the motor of any
potential military machine, future war between the nations would be rendered permanently impossible.
This Schuman Plan gave birth to the European Coal and Steel Community, ECSC, the first major step toward the formation of the European Economic Community, which has grown to become today’s European Union.
A few weeks later, Schuman decorated Buchman as a Chevalier of the
Legion of Honour, in recognition of his role in helping “to create the
climate in which the new relationship between France and Germany had been
As we begin our search for grounds of hope, I tell this remarkable story
for several reasons. Few Christians today seem to know about the climate of
humility, forgiveness and reconciliation which fostered the birth of the
ECSC and thus the EU. The Caux story demonstrates the role of a ‘faithful
minority’ in exercising a disproportionate influence on the course of
events. It affirms that changed nations begin with changed men and women.
It illustrates how God’s blessing can spread like an oil fleck into every
nook and cranny of society when his people seek to live radically by his
principles and character.
This is a story of God’s action among the nations of Europe. It
gives us hope for his purposes for Europe – even in the 21st century. For
Buchman in post-war Europe, God’s will could be understood from knowing his
character and plans. Clearly it embraced forgiveness and reconciliation,
restoration and renewal, rebirth and rebuilding.
Today over fifty years later, we will also find the answer to the
question, “What is God’s will for Eu
rope?”, in his person, his p
Grounds for hope
Hope begins and ends with the revelation of God.
Biblical hope is not mere wishful thinking. It is not a
cross-your-fingers or touch-wood superstition. Biblical hope is ‘an anchor
for the soul, firm and secure’, grounded in the revelation of God, his
person, his purpose and his promises (Hebrews 6:18,19).
God’s self-revelation to Abraham and later to Moses began a radical
revolution in understanding reality. He was “the compassionate and gracious
God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to
thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6,7).
Wow! What a God! If that was true, there was indeed hope! The future had
The Children of Israel were to be the People of Hope, radically
different from the pagan peoples because they represented the God of Hope,
a personal living God radically different from the pagan gods. Even when
Israel failed, God’s faithful love – his ‘hesed’ – for Israel was
unconditional, as Hosea the prophet demonstrated.
Despite Europe’s unfaithfulness through the centuries, God still
pursues her as Hosea pursued his wayward wife. Because of their personal
experience of God’s ‘hesed’, Schuman and Adenauer could reach out in hope
and trust to one another and create a new beginning for Europe.
The person of God is the ground of our hope!
God’s revealed purposes also embrace all people of all peoples – German and
French, Russian and Chechnyan, Serb and Croat, Armenian and Turk. He wants
no-one to perish. Not only is he the hope of Israel, he is the hope of all
nations. Israel was given the special task of being priests to the world,
mediators between God and the nations. They were phase one of his rescue
plan activated by humankind’s rebellion. The goal was to restore the
nations to God’s original purpose: unbroken relationship with him, and to
be agents of his rule on planet earth. Despite the Eden disaster, there was
Yet his purposes went even further than that. They embraced the
restoration of all things in the cosmos to their God-ordained purpose
(Colossians 1:20). Paul describes the whole of creation as waiting in the
hope of liberation from sin’s fallout (Romans 8:19-25).
The purposes of God are the grounds of our hope!
Tightly interwoven with the purposes of God are the divine promises.
History does have a goal. Unlike eastern or animist religions, where life
is seen as an endless procession of cycles, God has declared a climax to
history, and that his kingdom, his rule, his reign, his shalom, would
eventually be established on planet earth. Just as a river eventually finds
its way to the sea, no matter how much it meanders en route, so too history
would eventually climax in the fulfilment of God’s purposes. God promised
under oath that history would not end until all peoples on earth had been
blessed through Abraham’s offspring.
While the prophets were often seen as doomsayers, in the long run
they were hope-bearers. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel all promised
the ultimate realisation of God’s plans. Minor prophets like Hosea, Joel,
Habakkuk and Zechariah also promised what God would yet do in history to
fulfil his purposes. The central theme of these promises is the coming of
God’s Reign, the Kingdom of God, his Shalom, on earth.
The promises of God are the grounds of our hope!
In the light of God’s unchanging person, purposes and promises, we need to
throw off those ideas and influences we have collected over time in a
hundred subtle ways – ideas that cheat us of faith, hope and vision.
We need to reject the enemy’s disinformation!
Till next week,