Conversation about America’s Current and Future Challenges

A close friend invited me and a small group of men to have dinner with an acquaintance of his from Washington DC. This man educates and grooms America’s diplomats and is known as a foreign policy expert and a specialist in international relations. We met in a private room at the most exclusive men’s club in San Francisco. The attendees were a group of ten presidents and CEO’s of international corporations from the West Coast and a couple from the East Coast. Each one was chosen because of his knowledge about the current conditions in specific parts of the world. The stated purpose of the dinner was to discuss the “State of the World.” I felt a bit out of place because, while I’ve had a lot of international experience, it was not on the level of these men. I think my friend simply wanted me to meet them.

We were served a great meal, but the conversation was the high point of the evening. We discussed U.S. foreign policy and its geopolitical implications. For more than an hour, we focused on terrorism and then moved to Russian and Chinese political, financial and military initiatives. It was a captivating conversation and each hour seemed like a few minutes. Eventually, one man noted that while the headlines are often dominated by Middle East issues, there are dozens of other civil, religious and tribal wars that go mostly unreported. Then he cited figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. They report that there are presently 47 armed conflicts around the globe, with fatalities last year of 167,000 and more than 50 million refugees. So then we spent time discussing the refugee crisis.

For the first two and half hours, I had mostly just listened because they were discussing things that were not even on my radar. Then my friend who invited me said, “Glenn, you’ve been rather quiet. What are your thoughts? I was reluctant to express what I was thinking, but with his encouragement I did.

I said, “I’m very impressed by the deep knowledge of world affairs at this table. It seems to me that you have defined the problems well. But frankly, I didn’t hear any solutions. In my opinion, most of those involved in these conflicts don’t have intellectual differences. Their issues are visceral, gut level, which means they’re motivated by anger, revenge or absolute hatred. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that words like love and hate are matters of the heart, not the head. That means that our foreign policy and the United Nations are incapable of addressing the real problem, which is the human heart. Let me support that with the opinion of two leaders who have battled the most intractable problems of our day.”

I recalled for them a dinner I had with a Supreme Court Justice from Columbia. We discussed the drug problem and how it was devastating his nation and the people of the world. He volunteered that the only answer he could think of would require people to have a change of heart. At another meeting in the home of the Secretary General of the Israeli Knesset, we discussed the Jewish/Palestinian conflict. He volunteered that it would continue until people had a change of heart. That sounds like what a pastor might say. However, both of these men are secular. After working closely with the most serious problems of our day, these two men have concluded that the condition of the human heart is the real source of the problems.

Then I suggested that I knew someone who can change a person’s heart. I know that first hand because Jesus gave me a new heart. At that point, one of the CEO’s said sarcastically, “Oh my God, are you saying that everyone has to become a Christian before we can find a way to live in peace?” I replied that I was not talking about religion because it’s at the root of many of the conflicts in our world. I was certainly not suggesting religion as an answer. I was talking about a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Secondly, I don’t believe every person must follow Jesus in order for us to make some progress. I said it’s a firmly established fact that in every culture, whether an inner city gang or the United Nations, people follow leaders. As a matter of fact, there are probably only three or four men in this club who are recognized as the prime movers. That would be true for any segment of society, a Boy Scout troop, a church or a city. So I asked, “How many key leaders do you think there are in the entire world?” The first to answer guessed 20, then after a discussion, they settled on eight leaders that set the pace for the entire globe.

I asked, “If even one of those men became a disciple of Jesus, do you think he would be a positive influence on the world stage? It wouldn’t mean an end to all wars because we will never have a perfect world, but it could be very different and more hopeful than it is now. It may sound to you like a utopian ideal, but nothing could be further from my thinking. I think and operate at the micro level and leave the macro solutions to others. I’m investing my life in one man at a time. I encourage men in very diverse sectors of our culture to be leaders led by God rather than their own self-interest. I’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic change that Jesus made in the founder of the most violent African-American gang in Los Angeles. It’s also been my privilege to see Jesus change the heart of numerous CEO’s as well as the President of a nation.

The man from Washington spoke up and said; “Glenn, does anyone else in the whole world think like you do?”

I said, “You need to be hanging out with some different folks because lots of people think as I do.” Then he said in a gotcha tone, “Anyone in DC?” I mentioned several and one who was in the President’s cabinet, so of course, he was interested in meeting them. A few weeks later I arranged for him to be invited to a small Bible study group that meets every Tuesday and involves several from the highest levels of government. He was accepted and became a faithful member of that group.

The three-hour dinner eventually broke up, and several men wanted to talk afterward. Later, one walked out with me. When we reached the street, he said, “Do you know anyone I could meet with in Florida?” Fortunately, I have a long time friend who lives in his city, and they began to meet regularly.

A week after that dinner the man from DC called me and asked if I would come to Washington and tell his friends what I said at the dinner. I asked him who his friends were and he mentioned a number of the most senior Republican leaders in the Congress. I accepted, so he flew my wife and me to Washington, and we spent a week meeting with his friends. Later I invited this man to a men’s retreat in the Colorado Rockies, and it was there that Jesus gave him a new heart.

This paper could go on for several more pages because of the activity that dinner generated, but this abridged version of our conversation will have to do.