Monday, August 24, 2015

Are we really in the last days?

An email arrived this morning with an offer for "End Times" commentaries and locally there's a conference with a title that makes heavy references to ours being the final generation before the end. Not a very encouraging start to the week! Fortunately I've had my breakfast and fortified myself for the day ahead. Mind you the weather doesn't look promising. I think I'd prefer a warmer, sunnier day for the collapse of history.

I'd rather hoped that the evangelical church had grown up a bit since the 70's when we were urged to pray about the EU. Not because some of its policies were concerning but rather because it comprised 11 nations and had a supercomputer somewhere in Brussels with the code "666" that clearly indicated the end was fast approaching. For supercomputer read a large cumbersome, room-filling computer with the processing power of digital thermometer available in all good pharmacies today, and the rest of the fulfilment line fell apart somewhat with the expansion of the EU, to include Greece of all nations, as far as I remember . Apparently we haven't done that much maturing over the 40 years since then.

A preoccupation with the end seems to me to be gross distraction from the present. It isn't that I'm unaware of the prophetic narrative about the unfolding story of humanity, I'm just a little more preoccupied about what to do today without the added burden of thinking it might all end tomorrow. There just seems to be far too much to do.

When I read Brian McLaren's book Everything Must Change I was challenged by the idea that if the gospel is good news then it must have something to say about everything. I guess if I wanted to push this further then I'd say that the gospel is not just about our future salvation but also about our present redemption. I don't think that's particularly revolutionary. I think we'd all agree that the response the gospel demands from us is not simply one of agreeing with a series of theological propositions in order to secure our eternal destiny. The gospel is good news for the poor, the marginalised, the refugees, the migrants, the disconnected, the sufferers the wealthy, the healthy and anyone not covered by the preceding list! As such it has something to say about our economics our foreign policy our use of military force, our response to disaster. In fact it has something to say about every aspect of our lives in the present.

It's tough enough working out the implications of living a gospel oriented life in the present without the added burden of trying to figure when and how the world around us will come to an end. If we are the final generation, then so be it. If the end comes in my lifetime, fine. I'm as ready as I will ever be. What preoccupies me is honouring God day by day, not because the end is getting nearer but because it's the thing a disciple does. My question is more about how I can bless those around me, how I can help them take a step towards the kingdom, not whether this event or that movement signals the arrival of the apocalypse.

So if you're going to the conference or if you're investing in the books, please do so in the context of the present and let the future unfold as it will. Once we've figured out how to live in the present, maybe then we can think about all that future stuff.

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