Grief, Hope, and Our Mission

InterVarsity president Tom Lin sent this post-election reflection to all InterVarsity staff and volunteers on Thursday, November 10, 2016.

Friends, it’s been a long couple of days. I’ve been on the road this week. I’m physically and emotionally spent, but I wanted to share a bit of my thinking.

As a Taiwanese American raising two half-Taiwanese/half-Korean daughters, I spent yesterday processing and grieving the divide in the society where my girls are being raised. I remember growing up in a society where others made it clear that I didn’t “belong” and that I should “go back to where I came from,” and then committing myself to changing this for the next generation. The U.S. presidential election leaves many of us—particularly women, people of color, LGBTQI staff, and immigrants—feeling vulnerable, devalued, and without hope.

I am troubled by the fact that evangelical voters split between the candidates along racial lines. The racial divide within the church seems as clear and as stark as ever before. This leaves me grieving, weary, and sobered.

Many of us are genuinely struggling, wondering where God is in all of this. What should we do?

As followers of Christ, I hope we will attempt to heed Scripture’s command to pray for the leaders of our country. Some of us will do so with hope. Some of us will do so only by faith. All of us will need to pray how Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”

As members of the global Church, I hope we heed voices from the majority world who stand in solidarity with our challenges and have experiences to share. Church leader Duncan Olumbe from Kenya wrote yesterday:

May God walk with citizens of the USA and especially those who are Christians during this interesting phase of your history. Whether celebrating or dumbfounded, do not box God into your interpretive grid, theological or otherwise…. I sense the Golden Rule – love your enemy – will be severely tested over the coming days. Speak and post less, be more reflective, and pray even more.

As InterVarsity, we must resolutely affirm the good news we bring to campus, to every corner of the campus, including the most marginalized corners. I believe the church and our country need us to live out our commitment to multiethnicity and ethnic reconciliation now more than ever. Let us grow in entering into the discouragement and despair of our students of color. Let us continue challenging White students to renounce cultural idolatries and racism, while also trying to better understand White anger and alienation more deeply and empathetically, coming out of this election. Let us continue challenging all students to embrace God’s invitation to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

Furthermore, I believe we need to live out our commitment to women in InterVarsity leadership. When we do so, we model what it means to treat women with the dignity and respect they are owed as people created in God’s image. We demonstrate what it means for men and women to work as partners together.

I believe we need to learn advocacy for the religious freedom of others, particularly Muslims. Thanks to our campus access initiatives, we have a good relationship with the Muslim Students’ Association. We are talking with their national executive director next week.

This election reaffirms the strategic importance of our mission. It reaffirms that we must work together to make InterVarsity a place where women, as well as staff, students, and faculty of color, thrive, where our multiethnic communities are salt and light in the midst of darkness and hopelessness. We yearn to see this, but we cannot carry out God’s mission in our own power or own strength. This is something we can only pull off with the power of the gospel.

Brothers and sisters, we have good news to bring to the campus in this fractured and polarized time. We are people of hope! And the thirst for hope is at an all-time high. Amazingly, the early church grew and matured under leadership whose debauchery, sin, and ethnic divisions outstrip our own. So we will continue to engage the campus with the gospel, even with hope.

With gratefulness for you and our partnership in the gospel,