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What do we do with all the bad news?

August 8, 2017

Things are not as they should be. Since the fall, this statement has always been true. But thanks to today’s real-time, 24-7 cable news and on-the-ground reporting from citizen journalists, our social media feeds are a diet of news ranging from bad to horrifying. We are tempted to think that things are worse now than they’ve ever been. We began this week with rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula— a story happening half a world away that could have serious consequences at home. In response to a new round of international sanctions, North Korea is threatening retaliation and claiming the ability to strike major US cities. Then there are these ongoing conflicts:

  • Syria’s civil war may be at a ceasefire but millions of displaced people need new homes, jobs, schools, hospitals and opportunity.
  • Venezuela is on the verge of total collapse.
  • About 20 million people in east Africa are at risk of starvation, in what the UN has called the greatest humanitarian crisis since WWII.
  • This doesn’t even begin to address the sporadic, but never far from our minds, terrorist threats and attacks by jihadists.

At home, a government commission has asked the President to designate the opioid epidemic a national crisis, a rare August tornado touched down in Tulsa, a sinkhole in Florida continues to devour homes, and teachers return to schools faced with the challenge of teaching civics in a culture that has grown increasingly uncivil in its political speech.

As we survey the expansive list of conflicts both internal and external, what is the Christian perspective?

What do we see and what does God see? Where are our eyes fixed and where are our minds set? Do we see things from a worldly point of view or do we have the mind of Christ on the matters of the day?

We are not blind to the times in which we live but we are also aware that times could be worse. Things were worse in the days of Noah and things were worse in the days of the Judges. If you need a sober reminder of just how bad things can get, read Judges 19. We also know that things are going to get worse before they get infinitely better. That’s the prophetic reality God reveals in the book of Revelation. It is with sober minds and broken hearts that we face the future because the bad news is not the whole story.

As Christians, we acknowledge that God is God through it all. Even when it seems hopelessly out of control, God is in control of it all. God’s redemptive will is being worked out in real lives in real time right now. From God’s perspective everything is right on schedule, operating according to His perfect will.

How can that be? Think about the one day when everything seemed like it was falling apart, at least from the perspective of Christ’s followers— the Thursday of Holy Week. This is the evening of the Last Supper. This is the evening when he asked his closest friends to stay alert and pray. This is the evening they fail, miserably. The first disciples watched as Jesus was unjustly accused, convicted and then crucified on a Roman cross.The very person who they thought was the Messiah— a term they understood to be a political liberator, Israel’s promised way out of the Roman Empire’s occupation— was dead. That is not the nature of Jesus, the Messiah, whose death and resurrection liberates all who believe from the power of sin in life and the penalty of sin in death, but on the night He was arrested, it just seemed to the disciples as if everything was horribly out of control and going from bad to worse.

But the betrayal of Judas in the Garden, the arrest, the trials, Peter’s denials, the flogging, even crucifixion unto death and burial in a borrowed grave is not the end of the story. God’s perspective matters because God’s perspective is both eternal and redemptive. From where we now stand, on the Easter-side of the resurrection of Jesus, everything – and I mean everything – is fundamentally changed.  Jesus changes everything. From the global conflicts to our personal grief, Jesus’ act on the Cross and God’s act in raising Jesus from the dead, changes everything. As Christians, when we witness the persistent realities of fallenness, brokenness, conflict and even war, we see the need for the Savior – a Savior who has come and is coming again.

The Bible tells us (1 Corinthians 1:25-27) that which is foolishness and weakness to the world is the very wisdom and power of God. The day we call Good Friday— the same day the disciples thought everything was falling apart— gives us hope. That doesn’t mean we do not care deeply about what’s happening in the world but it transforms our perspective on the events of this and every other day. The reality of Jesus, who was and is and is to come, makes possible the living of these days with a sense of peace which passes understanding, a contentment in all circumstances and a joy the world finds inexplicable.

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