North and South Korea agreed yesterday on negotiations to resolve problems and military talks intended to avert accidental conflict. In a joint statement after their first official dialogue in more than two years, the North also pledged to send a large delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Its delegation will be comprised of athletes, high-ranking officials, a cheering squad, art performers, and reporters and spectators. Working talks will be held soon to clarify the details of bringing the North Koreans to the Olympics.
"We have high expectations that the Olympics will turn out to be a peace festival with special guests from the North," said South Korea's unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon. The discussions came after the US and South Korea announced last Thursday the suspension of military exercises during the Games.
A South Korean official explained: "When the ancient Greeks used to hold the Olympics, they held a truce. We are living in a civilized world. It is the logical choice."
He is right. In addition, the modern Olympic Games were begun with the hope that cooperation by the world's nations could prevent conflict and promote peace.
"Overcoming the divisions of our age"
Building community in response to conflict is more urgent today than ever.
In The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, Yuval Levin makes the persuasive argument that our national future depends on rebuilding families, schools, churches, charities, markets, and local governments. He believes that the prevailing options in our society–empowering government vs. promoting individualism–are nostalgic desires for bygone eras.
According to Levin, the federal government grew exponentially as it responded to the Great Depression and two world wars. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society codified this approach to social improvement, offering government-sponsored programs intended to address our greatest challenges.
The failure of centralized, top-down government to resolve our social problems fostered a new era of limited government and enhanced personal activism during the Reagan years, an approach largely continued under Bill Clinton and both Bush administrations. In Levin's view, the Obama administration then sought to rebuild a Great Society-like government expansion with programs such as the Affordable Care Act.
The problem with too much or too little government, however, is that contemporary society is too diverse and fragmented for a single solution to our challenges. The internet and social media have produced enclaves of like-minded consumers who follow only the news sources they like and the leaders they support. Today's economy fosters individualism over corporations (think Uber vs. cab companies, Tesla vs. General Motors).
In such a day, government cannot be big enough or small enough to meet our challenges.
Levin therefore calls for "a recovery of the model of community as the basic pattern of American life." He claims that such a model "holds out the promise of overcoming the divisions of our age of fracture without surrendering the advances of our era of liberalization and diversity." He believes that when we rebuild the structures that span the gap between us and Washington, they will facilitate the solutions we need.
"Salvation for all people"
Here's the good news: Christians, uniquely among the world's religions and ideologies, offer humanity God's invitation to join a community founded on grace and open to every person on earth. In Jesus, "the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people" (Titus 2:11).
There are no laws to keep, no creeds to memorize, no rituals to perform in order to experience our Father's unconditional love and join his family. All who ask for Jesus to forgive their sin and become their Lord experience his transforming grace.
If you feel excluded by life today, know that you are included in God's love. There is no place you can go that he is not present (Psalm 139:7-12). There is no sin you can commit that he cannot forgive (1 John 1:9). He loves you as much as he loves his own Son (John 17:23, 26).
If you have experienced God's inclusive love, ask him to help you share it with someone today. You know people you can impact as no one else can. You have the privilege of sharing the greatest news in human history, the answer to the deepest needs of the human heart.
"Become the Light"
The International Olympic Committee's new brand campaign is "Become the Light." The campaign "aims to promote the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect." Its practical goal is to "bring sustainable, solar powered lighting solutions to refugee camps" around the world.
The timing of the IOC's campaign is interesting given yesterday's talks between North and South Korea. Hopefully, the Olympics will once again lift the light of redemptive community in a dark world.
The Winter Olympics, however, will be over on February 25. But a community centered in Christ will continue to advance God's Kingdom until that day when we join "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9).
What a day that will be.
First published at the Denison Forum.