Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side~ Proverbs 3:25-26a NIV
The world is a scary place these days.
The 2016 presidential primary looked more like a continuous loop of an old episode of the Keystone Kops than a thoughtful campaign for the job of President of the United States; the two contenders left standing look and act more like parodies of presidential candidates than actual candidates.
We are told the economy has improved, but the job market is tight and so are budgets. Terrorist attacks have become so common that they are no longer even shocking. Civility and decency have taken huge hits in recent years. Marriage rates are plummeting, illegitimacy rates are soaring, race relations are terrible, abortion and divorce rates remain steady and the entire notion of gender has become so squishy that no one even knows where to go to the bathroom anymore.
Church attendance is down, as are conversions. Biblical ignorance has soared to heights not seen since prior to the Reformation. Radical Islam is a very real threat to the notions of religious and political freedom and yet many spiritual and political leaders are too fearful and feckless to even debate the issue like grown-ups, let alone do anything about it. As a result the persecution of Christians and Jews has become widespread in some areas.
Sometimes it feels like the world is a great big political and social tinderbox and we are all just waiting for someone to light the right match to make it all go boom.
Some respond by relentlessly analyzing and lamenting the issues. They write long, depressing blog posts cataloging the world’s social and political sins. They are convinced the apocalypse is coming next Thursday and have prepared accordingly. This group plans to hunker down and grit their teeth as they wait for the end to come and sinners to be vanquished from the earth.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who throw vast amounts of physical and spiritual energy into bringing heaven to earth. This group believes that if we all work together to “take our world for Jesus” by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and acting as agents of peace in the world everything will eventually get better. These folks believe deep down in their hearts that it is ultimately up to Christians to make the world a better place through human efforts.
Both views are harmful in their own their own unique way. The first is a creepy form of fatalism Christian people should avoid like serial killers and skin diseases. Christianity is the hope of the world and Christians ought to be the most hopeful folks on earth. I am convinced that preaching fatalism without offering any kind of hope or optimism for the future is an egregious form of spiritual malpractice.
The second option certainly sounds better on the surface. It’s positive and proactive; it mobilizes folks to action without freaking them out. Nonetheless, it is a misguided notion at best. Nowhere in the Bible are believers commanded to “take the world for Jesus” or “usher in the Kingdom”.
That’s God’s job.
The command for believers to “ be courageous” in the face of danger, opposition and even the threat of death is given repeatedly in Scripture. I seriously doubt God would reverse course now and tell His people to hide out until He gets back. Nor should we allow ourselves to be lulled into believing that the world will be dramatically transformed through feeble human efforts alone.
Christians should make every effort to remain hopeful and confident as we act as God’s representatives in this world. We are told to pray persistently for the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth and to resist the temptation to sin as we wait. We are also told to tell anyone who will listen about the hope Jesus offers and make the people who do listen into disciplined followers of Jesus. We are also told to feed the hungry and help the less fortunate, but not in a misguided effort to simply make the world a “better place”. Rather, as a tool to reach people with the hope of Jesus.
He’s the real hope we have in this world.