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The End of the World (As We Know It)

10f0039If I were to ask you if things are going to get better or worse, what would you say? Perhaps you would ask me for some context, or at least a time frame.

One year from today, do you think your life will be better or worse?

What about 5 years? What about 30 years?

What if we think about more than your life. Will the world at large be better or worse off in a year? A hundred years? A Millenium?

I was in a discussion recently with some local community leaders and one of them made the observation that almost all movies/shows about the future have a negative outlook. Post apocalypse type stuff. The remake of Mad Max is currently on top of the box office as I write this post.

Shows like Last Man on Earth and the 100 are popular.

The theme is similar. In the future, things have gone terribly wrong (one way or another) and now human civilization lives in this Hobbsian reality where survival is the only real goal for people who are fighting to exist.

But here's the thing: there are other indicators that show we don't really believe that.

When a school or mall shooting occurs, we are still shocked and dismayed. If we believed that this world was inevitably heading for hell in a handbasket, we should simply shrug our shoulder and say, "Oh well. That's all we can expect."

Instead, we want answers on how to avoid these occurrences the next time. We turn to our political systems and seek answers and leadership. We want to make sure it will never happen again.

This is where I feel that we have cognitive dissonance.

We think that in the long term, things are going to go badly; but at the same time, we think in the short term, things can/should get better.

I believe we need to pick one or the other.

Either 'things can get better', or 'abandon hope all you who enter here'.

In the past, I think the church has taken the latter stance. The sales pitch has been, "This world is awful, but one day we'll get to heaven and it'll be okay". I'll Fly Away is a hymn that reflects this kind of escapism mentality. This world is the Titanic and my only goal should be to get off of it.

When I started to read N.T. Wright a number of years ago (specifically, Surprised by Hope), I discovered that I didn't need to choose the path of negative eschatology.

God is recreating this world. Revelation 21 points to a day that the heavens and earth are renewed and they exist in harmony with one another.

This tells us that what we do in this life makes a difference. It prepares the arrival of the kingdom. God is conducting train, and he has invited us to lay down the tracks for his arrival.

We can make things better now by praying the prayer in Matthew 6:10, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done" and then bringing our actions into line with our prayer.

And we know the end of the story. It is one of hope and redemption and renewal.

All the wrongs are set to rights.

No more tears or pain or death.

Now that's a future I can get behind. That's a future that lets me look at tragedy today and say, 'No. I will not stand idly by and allow this.'

That's a future which gives value to working for peace today.

If that's the end of the world as we know it, then I really can feel fine.