But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love…while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.—2 Timothy 3:1-3, 13
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.—1 John 2:15
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16
I got a new phone a while back, and it has changed the way I view the world. I’ve never been someone who spent much time reading the news, because most of the time the news doesn’t have anything to do with my daily life. You can live a great life, serving God and your family really well, without being informed about every natural disaster happening thousands of miles away, every time a politician lies, every time a celebrity changes their hairstyle. I don’t think I’ve lived with my head in the sand, but I’ve tried to give most of my attention to things that are actually my responsibility, the things God has put in front of me to do. For the most part, I’ve found it a peaceful and productive way to go through life.
But now, with my new phone, headlines confront me without my ever having asked them to. I’ve been told I can change the settings so this doesn’t happen, but the truth is I’m interested. It’s fascinating to see what is happening in our culture, in the same way it’s fascinating to watch a train go off its tracks and explode into a massive scene of destruction and chaos.
If you happen to be even more uninformed than I was, let me break the news to you: our world is an absolute mess. The headlines are full of mass shootings, record-breaking natural disasters, murders, scandals, moral perversion, celebrity-worship, and politicians behaving like absolute children. If you read enough news, you’ll find yourself praying along with John in Revelation 22:20: “Come, Lord Jesus.”
To be fair, though, our world is also beautiful. There are the occasional stories of families reuniting, or of a total stranger helping someone in need. There are people spending their lives to try to improve the quality of life for others. There are leaders who truly serve those they lead. There are good parents and brave children. There are people with incredible talent and creativity who use their gifts to bless the world. There are heroes who give their lives away, and good citizens who do their part to make the world a livable place.
And then there is the natural world. I’ve liked a few different photography pages on Facebook that regularly post incredible images of God’s creation. I love seeing pictures of the beauty of the stars, the ocean, the mountains, and the amazing creatures all around us. When you focus on these things, you have to admit that this world is an amazing place. Then you read a headline about something awful, and all that glory begins to fade once more. It’s hard to reconcile so much good and so much evil on the same small planet.
Being confronted with all this beauty and ugliness has caused me to do a lot of thinking about the state of our world today, and while I haven’t solved anything, I’ve come to the following conclusions:
- Looking at our world, I’m more convinced than ever that this place is not our home. When I hear people who really seem to believe that we can just make a few tweaks and fix the problems facing humanity, I have to laugh. Our problems run deep, because we are the problem. I believe strongly that Christians are called to do what we can to relieve suffering and show Christ’s love in tangible ways, but I also believe strongly that we will not fix this world, and that it’s a great mistake to place our hope here. Those who love this world too much need to dream bigger.
- Looking at our world, I’m more convinced than ever of the goodness of God and the reality of sin. The natural world is a constant source of reasons to worship the Creator, and people at their best are absolutely amazing.. The world is full of hope and grace and beauty. But it’s also very clear that there is something deeply wrong with people, something we can’t fix. When the Bible says that humanity has a sin problem, it’s giving us a better explanation for the state of things than anything the world can come up with.
- Looking at our world, I’m ashamed that I’m so much a part of it. Not just that I live here, but that I willingly participate in the nonsense. Part of the reason I get sucked into those headlines is that I share the world’s values more than I should. I want the people I disagree with politically to be exposed for the fools they are. I want to be cool like the celebrities. I want more money, security, and comfort. I want it to be easy to be a Christian, so I can follow Jesus and at the same time enjoy as much of this world as I can. I judge this world, but I also love this world. God help me.
- Looking at our world, I’m amazed that God loves us. When the Bible says that God looked on this world with love and pity and sent His Son to rescue us, I’m not sure we always appreciate that He sees everything the headlines show us, and far, far more. God knows every abuse, every injustice, every compromise, every sin, every weakness. He knows how awful people can be, including myself, and His response to all of this was not to turn His back in disgust, but to come near. God loves a world full of very sinful people, full of dishonesty and idolatry and violence and perversion of every kind. It’s mind-blowing, really. In spite of all our sinning, God loves us. And He calls us to see through all those terrible things and love the people He loves, because they are like us: lost, and unworthy, and redeemable because of the price paid on the cross. This week, I pray that when you and I Iook at the world around us, we will be aware of the problems, but even more aware of the unfathomable love of God for this world He sent His Son to save.