I am one of those people who think that the United States, the whole world actually, is in a lot of trouble. That’s not a comment on the Obama administration (honesty discloser: I do believe they have given a great big shove to things already in motion). I don’t believe it matters anymore which political party is in control. We face an array of unprecedented challenges, any one of which is trouble enough, but taken together, create a storm of terrifying possibilities; a storm that represents years worth of value shifts and political malfeasance.
I believe we’ve passed any possibility of avoiding economic hard times if not flat out economic collapse. It isn’t simply that our government spends more money than it has. It’s a fatal mixture that adds consumer debt, lack of manufacturing, tax structures, the Fed’s attempts to prop up treasury bonds, collusion between the government, big labor, Wall Street, and favored multinationals, and let’s not even bring up energy policies. The US economic death spiral is not happening in isolation, but in concert with a world economy that has never been so interdependent. World-wide, similar toxic economic conditions exist and similar political malfeasance is occurring as well. Add to that the parties and countries which eagerly desire the economic collapse of the Western world, and the horizon grows darker still.
I know, I know – we keep being told that the US (and world) economies are recovering, and scary things like Greece’s default are under control. Keep in mind that in the 1930’s the US economy was not a flat line. It fluctuated up and down; but it remained weak. Just because some indicators trend upwards short term, it doesn’t indicate that the conditions creating the economic weakness have changed. Nor do short term influxes of cash fix the root causes of the problems faced by Greece and neighboring countries.
Economic troubles aren’t the only source of concern. How about Iran? What about Antisemitism, persecution of Christians, terrorism, suppression of speech, governments killing their own people, and people burning down their own cities? It all contributes to our growing sense that something bad is happening.
From a Christian perspective, current events have to be interpreted through a “God-tinted” lens. Jesus chastised the crowd one day because they knew “how to tell a change in the weather”, but couldn’t “tell a change in the season, the God- season we’re in right now” (Luke 12:56). How are you reading the “God-season” right now?
I don’t converse with many people about all of this, but when I do, most share my uneasiness. Few, however, have realized that their read on the signs of the times should lead to on. It didn’t do the old timers any good to read the weather signs that a blizzard was on the way and do nothing. They had to get busy so that the livestock and their family survived. Once they were prepared, they were in a position to help the old geezer or widow lady across the way if they needed help. If the storm missed them, their preparation would benefit them in the future, and the ties with their neighbors were stronger. Likewise, if you respond to the signs of the coming God-season and prepare, you will be in a position to help others.
So if the signs of the times are indicating a 500 year storm is on the way, what kind of preparations do I recommend? I have four G’s (God, garden, gold, and guns) that I believe are important enough that I wrote my family a Christmas letter about them. However, I have something much more important to recommend. (I will post a modified version of that letter as a page on TTC later, if you’re interested).
First, begin right now to have zero tolerance for hatred. Have absolutely nothing to do with it. Many of us realize the concept of love has become so twisted that it has virtually no meaning. I think we have done the same thing to the concept of hate. It’s become a word used as a political weapon, an overused word, applied where words of lesser force such as dislike, or disrespect could be used. Despite the wild accusations that are made, a person is not a hater just because they criticize someone’s point of view. According to the old Webster’s dictionary, hate means, “To have a great aversion to, with a strong desire that evil should befall the person toward whom the feeling is directed.” Hate means the desire to see someone, or a group of someones, destroyed, outlawed, rotting in prison, in a labor camp, or lying dead in the streets. Hate is accelerating all over the world right now, even in the United States. Forces are working overtime to separate people from each other, to build walls of hatred between them, to control them, to eliminate them. Hatred is breaking Americans into the 99% versus the 1%, the atheists against the Christians, the Catholics against Protestants and Jews, the tea partiers against the government. The spirit of hate is part of evil, and it is one of the forces driving the coming storm. Get prepared by beginning right now to recognize true hatred, and to shun it.
Secondly, most importantly, commit yourself to be an extremist for love. Love, God’s kind of love, will be the only source of hope; it will be the difference maker, when the rest of the world is being torn apart. That is not a new idea, it has always been true, and it has always been the Christian prime directive. But it is in history’s dark moments that God’s love is needed most, and when it shines brightest. It was God’s love that compelled Corrie Tenboom’s family, and all the other Righteous of the Nations, to risk their lives to rescue their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. It is God’s love that compels neighbors to help neighbors when a tornado rips through town, even when their own home has been destroyed. God’s love is what can bridge the gaps between Occupy Wallstreeters and Tea Partiers, Catholics and Jews, Evangelicals and Mormons, even those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice.
Someone has said that the opposite of love is not hatred, it is indifference. Did the Holocaust during WWII occur because the Germans hated Jews, or was it because the German people became indifferent to what was happening? Love cares, it acts, it takes risks. Look at a few of Jesus’ own words on the subject:
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27
“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” Luke 6:32
Then there’s Paul’s words to the Corinthians about his own Jesus-style love for them:
“I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.” 2 Corinthians 12:15
And of course, there is Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10, the supreme illustration of an extremist for love, of someone who crosses the gap of hatred by refusing to be indifferent, and takes the risk to care.
So let me suggest a few ways you can begin preparing to become an extremist for love:
- Follow Jesus’ command; begin praying for the people you feel animosity towards. Don’t hate the haters, pray for them, that their hate would be transformed into love.
- Understand what Jesus-style love looks like. Spend time in the Gospels. Also be very familiar with I Corinthians 13 and Romans 12.
- Make an effort to take “love your neighbor” literally:
- Do you know your neighbors? Join forces with the one or two you do know and throw a block party and learn who they are.
- Or turn all that zucchini into bread and give it to the neighbors you don’t know.
- Look for opportunities to ask for help and offer help now, because the day will come when your mutual survival may depend on each other; more importantly, doorways will be built for Jesus to walk through.
- In the process, you and your neighbors will no longer be indifferent to each other and instead will establish a standard for caring in your own corner of this troubled world.
- Loving others is inseparable from loving God. Now is the time to get serious about attending worship consistently, giving regularly, and Bible study.
- If you want to find and experience God’s love for you in profound ways, you need to get involved in the hard work of building real relationships with other believers. Christians are literally Jesus’ body on earth; Jesus uses the hands and words of other people to express his love for you. He wants to use you to express his love to others. I urge you to begin now to build these kinds of relationships; but I warn you up front, it requires a major commitment to spend significant time with like-minded people.
Making preparations for almost anything means a shift in priorities. Think about the old time rancher who set aside the usual work in order to prepare for a blizzard, or people who drop everything to board up windows and get ready for a hurricane. Listening to your instincts that trouble is coming should result in a similar shift of priorities. Make whatever changes you need to in order to be prepared, but especially, whatever changes you need to make to be an agent for love and healing, not hate and destruction.