“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, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
(2 Tim. 3:1-5)
Do you ever look at the news and just shake your head, wondering what went so wrong and if we can ever find our way back?
I’m a follower of Christ and I have full confidence and faith in God and His control over this world.
But when I read the headlines, I admit that I am saddened and disturbed by the hate, suffering, lying, injustice and violence in our world.
And then I remember.
Our Father told us there’d be days like this.
Which makes me think of this song.
If you have a moment, watch the video above. The juxtaposition of the lyrics with the images of racism, violence and rage are disturbing and a call to action for all of us, particularly in light of each day’s news cycle.
God told us there would be days like this – and it certainly appears that those days have arrived.
Just before His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus delivered His final sermon to His disciples on the Mount of Olives in what is known as the Olivet Discourse. In this final teaching, Jesus answered the disciples’ questions about His return and offered them instruction in how to live, serve and love God and each other.
“As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:3-14)
Take a closer look at Matthew 24:12:
” Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”
If we could measure the temperature of love like we measure water and air, solids, liquids and gases, what might we find?
If the love in our hearts could be measured for God and others, what would the thermometer reveal?
Would we beam over the reading – or would we recoil in shame and embarrassment, wondering how the fire had gone out in us, followers of Christ full of memorized Bible verses about God’s love, we who sing songs proclaiming God’s love, so many of us students with full access to hundreds of examples of love and charity woven throughout the pages of our family Bibles?
There’s an irony that as we endure unending days of triple digit temperatures across the globe this summer, love has grown quite cold in our world. Cynicism, sarcasm and selfishness abound. People feel more alone perhaps than at any other time in history. We are all seemingly connected to one other on world wide webs and social networks, but the safety nets of family, friendship, community and humanity are tattered and threaten to let any one of us fall through at our most vulnerable and critical moments.
Feel like giving up?
That’s precisely what the enemy is hoping for.
The tension, the yelling, hate, vitriol, anger, the ugliness, bullying, the insults, the abuse, attacks, harassment, endless comparing of one another, the condescension and put-downs.
But there’s good news.
And it’s literally the Good News – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On another mountain top, Jesus taught us how to live in a sermon He delivered at the beginning of His ministry, what’s known as both The Beatitudes and The Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are…” is how each line begins in Matthew 5:3-11.
In each line, Jesus commends us to live a good life that glorifies God. A life we can be proud of at the end of our lives.
A life well-lived and well-loved.
These aren’t the lessons of this world.
These are the lessons of eternity.
These are lessons that we can learn from, apply and embody.
Jesus taught in Matthew 5:3-11 that we are blessed when we…
are poor in spirit
hunger and thirst for righteousness
are pure in heart
are persecuted for the sake of righteousness
are insulted and persecuted and people say false things about us because of Jesus
and then in verse 12, Jesus teaches us to rejoice and be glad when these things happen to us.
That’s right. We are to rejoice and even be glad in our suffering for Christ. Because we are not to look around us, but we are to look above us – we are to look to our ultimate destination, heaven, and remember that God has given us a destiny to serve Him and others until we reach that final destination.
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt. 5:12
It’s counter-intuitive and it’s counter-cultural.
And while at first glance it might seem counter-productive, it’s anything but.
When we choose to live meekly, gently, righteously, peacefully, purely and mercifully, we receive a double blessing.
The first blessing is that we are blessed in how we choose to live. We have the satisfaction of knowing that we didn’t offend, attack, insult, hurt, cheat, steal or harm others in our words and deeds. When you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you can rest well knowing that you lived well. You can have peace knowing that you brought peace to others. You don’t have regrets of “I wish I hadn’t said/done that today.”
That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect life you live — just a life of purpose, planning and progress. Each day, better than the one before. Some days challenging. Some days even holding struggle and conflict – but choosing to resolve them like Christ would.
The second blessing we receive is that others are blessed in how we choose to live and in the love we choose to give. Our lives are an offering – to God and to others. We can live our lives pouring ourselves out for others – being kind, helpful, serving people, encouraging others, turning the other cheek, refusing to respond with hate but choosing to respond with love and grace, living our best lives of love and kindness so that we might point people to Jesus and be His hands, feet, voice and heart on this earth.
When those around us are screaming and yelling, we can bring quietness and peace. Instead of getting caught up in the chaos, we can usher in order and tranquility as we stay calm and help others calm down as well. When people are being unkind, we can choose to respond with grace and mercy and point them to our gracious and merciful Savior, refusing to lash out or respond with hate or hurt.
We can be the balm in Gilead as we live as Jesus’s emissaries on earth.
Things are bad in our world – and they seem to be getting worse every day. In each endless 24 hour news cycle, updated every few minutes with breaking news banners, there are constant stories of violent crimes, hurtful words, multiple investigations of wrongdoing by the people who are supposed to be leading our nation, global crises, conflicts, human rights violations – even in our own country, brutality, crimes and chaos.
In the words of Saw Gerrera in Rogue One, “the world is coming undone.”
But, our Heavenly Father and our Savior told us that there would be days like this. Jesus warned us these days would come – that when lawlessness increases, peoples’ love would grow cold.
As followers of Christ, we can and must be the antidote. We must cry out for righteousness and holiness and obey and honor God in our lives – and at the same time, we must live lives of love, mercy, peace, purity and gentleness.
It may seem daunting, but we can start small. Here are some little ways to share love this week. Choose one to do this week, and then keep adding to them – and ask God to show you ways that are unique to your gifts, talents and personality in which you can show love to bless those around you and be a bright shining light in a sometimes dark, sad and lonely world.
- Smile. Say hello. Look at people and be present in your world.
- Say “Pardon me” if you bump into someone or are doing that awkward “shall we dance?” thing when you’re crossing paths.
- Don’t honk unless it’s an emergency. Perhaps the person is waiting because they see something you don’t. Be patient and be kind.
- Put down your phone when driving. Put down your phone when walking. Put down your phone when you’re talking with your family and friends. Put down your phone when you’re eating. Seriously. Just put down your phone.
- Talk with cashiers, sales people and customer service representatives. Ask them about their day. Make small talk. Talk about the weather. Sports. Their kids. Your kids. Something funny about your day. Share your faith in a gentle but bold way. “Praise God for the sunshine – isn’t it a beautiful day?!” Treat them like you’d want to be treated if shoes were switched.
- If you can afford it, tip generously the next time you go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant. Be friendly to your server. Be genuine and be kind. Their days are hard and they will appreciate your kindness and your generosity.
- Do you see a harried mom or dad with fussy or cranky kiddos? Don’t judge them. Smile and say something encouraging. Engage with them and let them know they’re doing a great job and that we’ve all had days like that. If you’re good with kids, engage the kids and distract them – maybe ask them a question or just smile at them and say hi. The worst thing to do? Stare. The most worst thing to do? Stare and condemn, shaking your head, sighing, judging them. The best thing to do? Love them like you’d want to be loved at that moment.
- Compliment one person every single day. It could be a stranger, a family member, a colleague or a friend. One compliment every day. It will bless them – and it will bless you to be a blessing. Mark Twain said that he could live for two months on a good compliment. We all could. And we all need compliments of encouragement and blessing.
- Banish the snark and cynicism. We’ve all gotten a little snarkier it seems in the last few years. Perhaps it’s nonstop social media, the proliferation of angry and hyper-competitive reality television, all the nasty online comments that bully and badger, a response to the craziness of the world today or some combination of everything. There’s so much for us to critique and weigh-in on 24/7. But. Don’t. Just refuse to snark or criticize or be cynical or jaded. Try it for one day. Then, try it for another. If you slip up and find yourself sending a snarky tweet, joining the chorus of criticism or relapsing into a cynical attitude of despair and disgust, just begin again. And if you snark in the presence of another, own it and tell them that you’re trying not to be so snarky/critical/judgmental and apologize for saying it – and then begin again.
- Let people go ahead of you, in front of you, before you. Be gracious and patient. If someone has a cartload of groceries or it’s taking too long to check out, say something kind and friendly to the cashier, your fellow shoppers or whoever’s in line with you. Say something kind to yourself while you’re at it. Remind yourself it’s going to be OK and to stay calm. Pray for the people you’re around. Ask God to bless them. Remember that every single person has a story every single day. You don’t know their story, just like they don’t know yours. We have no idea the challenges and struggles another is facing, but we can be certain that we will interact with people who are hurting and just hanging on. Just be kind to everyone, because everyone needs kindness.
- Eyes and ears. What are you watching/looking at each day? Listening to? Screaming pundits? Scheming reality tv shows? Judgmental gossiping? Ugly online comments? Consider going on a media diet and/or a screen diet. Perhaps even consider a media fast for a brief time. As they say, Garbage in, garbage out.
As God teaches us in the book of Proverbs, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
- If you feel upset about something, before you respond or react, try counting to 20, saying the ABCs, saying The Lord’s Prayer or saying/singing something else to yourself. You probably want to do it silently – but it could definitely be a distraction and bring some levity if you started to sing Happy Birthday or you counted backwards from 50 in a crowded store, at work or on the bus!
There are so many more ways that we can show and give love to others each day. We can choose to respond with grace, love, mercy and kindness. We can live our loves seeking to bless and encourage others. We can refuse to become depressed, discouraged and hopeless. We can choose what we watch, listen to and engage in. We can seek to serve rather than seeking to be served.
The antidote is love.
That doesn’t mean we tolerate unrighteous, illegal or evil actions. In fact, it’s the opposite. We don’t accept hate, bigotry, racism, prejudice or cruelty. We don’t ignore wrongdoing. We don’t accept hate. We don’t tolerate ugliness.
But we don’t exacerbate the problems of this world, the hate of this world, the lawlessness of this world and the lovelessness of this world. And hate, anger, snarkiness, rudeness, ugliness and jealousy only make things worse. Retaliation and revenge ruin lives. Tit for tat never made things better for anyone.
“And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
- What is your biggest pet peeve or challenge right now? Do you like how you respond to this pet peeve/challenge? It might be something you’re dealing with personally – or it may be something that is more general and larger-scale, like the state of our country and world, how people treat each other, current events, health and well-being issues, etc.
- If you can’t change the way others act (and we can’t, much as we’d like to), how can we change the way we act in response to others?
- If you could improve one thing about how you behave, what would you change? How could you begin to change?
- How can God use you to be a balm where you live? What gifts has He given you that He wants you to use to bless and encourage others?
- Do you find that you are more cynical, jaded, snarky, gossipy or judgmental than you’d like to be? If so, spend time in prayer asking God to help you examine your heart and mind and consider what you’re allowing in your thoughts and emotions. Ask Him to help you do some Heart Cleaning and change the things you read, watch and listen to. This week, try to spend some time in His Word each day, perhaps with your morning coffee or at the end of the day.
- Look up one or more of these passages in the Bible when you have a moment this week. Meditate on them and ask God to help you live these out daily. If you’d like, choose a verse to memorize over the next couple weeks. Ephesians 4:29 and Philippians 4:8-9 are both great memory verses that challenge us to think about what we think and say!
- Ephesians 4:29-32.
- Philippians 4:8-9.
- Matthew 7:1-5.
“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”