The Crowded Ways

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

Henry David Thoreau, noted American writer, philosopher, and naturalist of the nineteenth century, once described the city as “a place where people are lonely together,” a loneliness he attributed to a lack of caring relationships.

If Thoreau’s observation was true in the past, it is truer in the present, and the prediction is that it will become alarmingly more so in the near future. In 1950 there were only seven cities in the world with more than five million people. Two of them were in the Third World countries. Today there are 34 cities with more than five million people, 22 of which are in the Third World. By the year 2050 there will be nearly 100 cities with at least 5 million people, 80 of these in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Twenty percent of the world’s population will be living in the slums and squatter settlements of Third World countries. 

The hymn “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life” was written in 1903 by a Methodist minister pastoring in New York City. The words draw our attention to the mission field that exists in the cities where we live. They read in part:

Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear thy voice, O Son of man!
The cup of water giv’n for thee
Still hold the freshness of thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see
The sweet compassion of thy face.
O Master, from the mountain side,
Make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
Among these restless throngs abide;
O tread the city streets again;
Till sons of men shall learn Thy love
And follow where Thy feet have trod;
Til glorious, from Thy heaven above,
Shall come the city of our God.


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