As we look at the story we are living in it begins with God’s good creation (Gen. 1-2) and ends with God’s good re-creation (Rev. 21-22). We are living in between a good beginning and good ending. There are still elements of God’s good beginning all around us, and whatever is not good will be taken care of when Jesus returns. Sin has entered into the world (Gen. 3-11), but sin will not have the last word. The Christian must keep all this in mind as he or she strives to live out the story.
From time to time things may look bad, and they may actually be bad, but we must always remember that when we look around we are not looking at the end of the story. When we as Christians look forward, we should be filled with hope. If we are not filled with hope, then we are living in the wrong story or we have diluted the Biblical narrative by adding to or taking away from it.
Are we living in the worst times this world has ever seen?
As I study the Bible and history I would have to answer, “No.” In the Bible we read about a time when the world was so bad that God destroyed it (Gen. 6-7). In another account God destroyed two entire cities after ten righteous souls could not be found (Gen. 18-19).
As the story of God continues, things are not any better. At certain points in Israel’s history, the people of God are involved in such heinous acts as cultic prostitution and child sacrifice. When Jesus comes to earth, he enters into a world with corrupt politicians and cities (Luke 13:31-35) and where innocent children are murdered (Matt 2:16). The church grows and thrives under an oppressive empire that sometimes kills Christians. The apostle Peter urges his readers to be submissive to this oppressive government and to respect a tyrannical leader who is responsible for the death of Christians (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
If we are not living in the worst of times, then what is it?
We may live in bad times, but it is not unlike other times in history. We must figure out how to live as Christians during difficult times and how to best share the Christian message. When Jesus and other godly men and women were confronted with a dangerous and violent world, their response was two-fold.
First, they lamented the sinfulness, violence, injustice, etc. that was in the world. They prayed to God about what was going on and relied on God’s justice to take care of the problem. This is how Christians and the Christian community should respond. We should take our concerns to God as an individual or as the church. We should mourn and lament all the awful things that take place in our world. We direct our laments to God, not to a lost world. We are believers in the power of God, not in the power of the world.
Second, we should respond by entering into the world. The world lives in fear, but Christians live by faith. There should be a stark difference between us and the world. Jesus did not back down from corrupt leaders or dangerous cities. He also fed the hungry, healed the sick, and commanded people to give to the poor. He entered into the world and made it a better place. We are called to continue this mission, but this is not all. We are also called to speak good news to a lost and dying world, just as Jesus did. Our mission is to remind people that they were created in the image of God (Gen. 1-2) and there is something better on the horizon (Rev. 21-22).
Can a Christian be a pessimist?
The answer is “No.” We can weep, mourn, lament, and cry out to God, but at the end of the day we live by hope in a better future. This world has many critics and if the only thing we do is critique what we see around us, then we are no different than our worldly counterparts who do the same. Although a critique of this or that may be beneficial, it will not save the world.
Ultimately, we are called to share our message of hope. We are called to bring good news to a broken world. We are also called to step in and fix what we can. Although there are some things that will not be fixed until Jesus returns, there are other things we can help fix while we are waiting. The origins of this world are good, not evil. If we can remind people of their origins and purpose in life, then we can bring them back to the good.
When we as Christians become pessimistic we are allowing another story to take over and compete with the Biblical narrative. We are allowing our family story, country’s story, work story, etc. to get in the way of God’s story. We cannot have competing stories. There is only one story that matters and it is a story of hope. It is the story of a loving God who created a good world and did not abandon the world after it rebelled. It is the story of God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to earth to die on the cross in order to set us free, and it is the story of a God who is so invested in this world that He will return one day to redeem all creation. This is the story the world needs to hear from us. The Christian community should not be a community of pessimists, but should be a community that is filled with hope because we are always looking towards a brighter future.
“The times we live in are, as you say, grave: whether ‘graver than all others in history’ I do not know. But the evil that is closest always seems to be the most serious: for as with the eye so with the heart, it is a matter of one’s own perspective. However, if our times are indeed the worst, if That Day is indeed now approaching, what remains but that we should rejoice because our redemption is now nearer and say with St. John: ‘Amen; come quickly, Lord Jesus.’ Meanwhile our only security is that The Day may find us working each one in his own station and especially fulfilling that supreme command that we love one another.”
- C.S. Lewis, from a letter to a friend in 1952
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