How are you doing?

Matthew 24:3-8 states: “When [Jesus] was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

This is one of those passages of Scripture that has been twisted so many times throughout history. People point to it as some kind of Scriptural evidence that right now, regardless of when that is, is the end times. Rich televangelists and theological manipulators of all sorts have used this passage, along with others, to sell books, movies, and draw donations for their end times predictions and preaching that offer no hope but only destruction.

And when I read that passage it tells me something else. It’s not so much a passage offering predictions that point to right now as it is a word of comfort in chaotic times – the most common of times in the human experience. What we are going through right now is not anything new. Tell me a time in which there wasn’t a war or rumor of war going on? Aren’t we hearing all the things that Jesus talks about in his conversation with the disciples? in fact, we have plenty more too. That’s the beauty of this age in which the internet increases the speed at which information is shared and the amount of information. Not only are we hearing about wars and rumors of wars, along with natural disasters, but we also have the added benefit of hearing about laws and rumors of laws, along with policy disasters that all reap destruction on groups of people. It can be overwhelming, like a tsunami coming towards the coast, ready to hit and destroy anything in its path.

Are Jesus’ words meant for us right now especially when we look at the state of the world with a war in Ukraine that could escalate, with a refugee crisis, a constantly unstable Middle East, fights over natural resources, natural disasters, contagious diseases, fights over politics and policies that range from Covid mitigation to election reform to laws about sexuality, elected officials and public figures saying and promoting conspiracies and lies and standing with hate filled groups, people promoting and defending codified cruelty and system injustice, and more. Do we really think that Jesus said what he said with the full intent of the words being meant for 2022 in America? Hardly. And we really shouldn’t read Scripture through such a self-oriented lens either. When we do, it’s not a far step to making ridiculous predictions about the end times, to claiming to speak for God when you clearly aren’t, to who knows what else.

There’s a lot of junk going on. Enough to really weigh a person down. I sure feel it. I’m betting you do too. And here’s what else I know – you are not alone. You aren’t the only one who looks at all of this and is at a loss for words. You aren’t the only one who looks at the craziness and the crazy people doing crazy things and think “what in the world!?!” You aren’t the only one who is struggling to make sense because what you see and hear is the exact opposite of what is rational and what it means to be a Christian, all while there are “Christians” doing these crazy things. You aren’t the only one wondering if you even worship the same God as other people using the label of Christian but doing very unChristian things.

There are many ways to approach the world. Far more than just two ways – some kind of simplistic right/wrong lens. The world is much more complex and perplexing than that. If we look at the world through a lens of right/wrong, we’re going to be suffering a great deal because we’ll never have clear eyes to see the grace, blessing, and love that exists around us. We’ll get too caught up in what is wrong and miss what is good. We’ll miss seeing where God is active already.

Here’s what I know doesn’t work – thinking that we just ban problems away, or kill enemies, or do anything that makes other people disappear is not a way towards peace. It doesn’t solve anything. And at some point that method hunts us down because we become inconvenient and need to be disposed of too. All that does is make people into problems. And what are you going to do with the “problem” people who just won’t go away or change and become what you want them to become? That doesn’t lead to Godly options. It does lead to more authoritarian ones though.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 give me comfort because they tell me that I’m not alone. People across time and place have all lived through the same things – the chaos, the disaster, the corruption, the crazy people in leadership roles, the anger, the fear, and more. And Jesus has been in the midst of it all. That’s the comforting part. Nothing is so terrible, so bad, so evil, that Jesus has abandoned people or creation. And he won’t either. He’s here now. With us in the chaos. Telling us that we’ll hear about wars and rumors of wars, and more. Just like so many before. Just like so many to come.

So while it may feel overwhelming to the point of just giving up, don’t. The chaos, the evil, the crazy does what it does because they are all betting that you’ll quit. That you’ll quit loving, forgiving, showing grace and mercy, seeing the image of God in others, seeking and practicing peace, moving towards shalom, and bringing about the kingdom of God. If you were alone, I could understand why you would want to quit. It would be too much for any one person to bear. But you are not alone. Not by far. I see you. There are many of you. Many more than you realize. I hear you when you pray with me. I see when you share prayers. I hear when you share your frustrations and shock and disbelief at what is happening. You are not alone. Not at all. Stand tall. Lock arms with others. Proclaim Good News even if those who hear it don’t want to because they need it too. Look for God and where God is active and join in. And when you encounter the chaos, the crazy, and the anger, do what you are called to do – not throw it back at them, but instead to love. Because that’s how things change.

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