In fact, every so many hundred years the world seems to go through a colossal transition from an older structure of things to a new one, and it sure feels like that’s exactly what’s happing in our time.
A history professor of mine once said that human civilization is like the freezing and melting of water. It tends to go through massive cycles of relative stability (frozen state) and rapid change (fluid or liquid state). As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8…
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time of love, and a time of hate;
a time of war, and a time for peace.
Today, the world as we have known it is dying and being replace by an emerging reality that is not yet fully clear. In other words, we are in a very fluid time, but the new stability emerging from the old one is just beginning to crystallize, and, as in past cycles, it will certainly solidify into a new world stability (both nationally and globally).
However, a sad consequence of this process of global transition is an increase in negative mental and emotional energy, on a large societal scale, which has the tragic effect of sparking those who are on-the-edge mentally and emotionally to act out in violent ways. The vandalism and killings at churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, movie theaters, and so on, are prime examples of this tragic phenomenon, I think.
Another sad consequence of this process is the rise of rampant apocalyptic speculation that feeds on the hearts and minds of those most affected by the sense of anxiety, fear and loss that naturally accompanies times of great transition. In addition, popular novels like the “Left Behind” series, and movies like the “Isaiah 9:10 Judgment” documentary, seek to twist the hearts and minds of many Christians toward regarding any and all global peace-making and problem-solving efforts as some kind of great “Antichrist” conspiracy.
Consequently, such Christians (in the name of Jesus) often orient themselves against work for global peace, reconciliation and justice for all, because their apocalyptic theology says that such work is secretly on the side of evil. This apocalyptic theology is especially used to rally opposition to efforts aimed at establishing a two-state peace deal between Israel and Palestine.
However, our Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Therefore, in the name of Jesus our Lord, Christians ought to always be on the side of working toward greater cooperation between peoples and nations. It’s not easy work, but it is a part of the work of the children of God.
So, like Martin Luther, even if we knew that the world was going to end tomorrow and the kingdom of God would come in its fullness, we are called to “plant trees” today — both literally and metaphorically.
So, no matter what God has in store tomorrow, God’s people are to continually take part in the creative and redeeming work of God today! We are to plant trees of faith in the midst of fear, trees of hope against all hope, trees of justice and peace; and, of course, we are to plant real trees that give us oxygen and help regulate the balance of life on God’s green Earth.
Honestly, to prescribe and do anything other than this Christ-like work of “tree planting” within our faith, our life, and our entire world, is to be “anti” (against) Christ.
In fact, in Matthew 25:31-46 we are called to continue to work for a better world right up to the very moment of the return of Christ our Lord. We are to continue to work (right up to the very second of Christ’s return) to ease human suffering, to promote social justice for all, and, of course, to be peacemakers (5:9).
Again, to prescribe and do anything other than what’s in Matthew 5:9 and 25:31-46 is to be against the Spirit of Christ. For, as we read in Matthew chapters 5 and 25, the work of peacemaking, eradicating world hunger, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and so on, is exactly what Christ wants to see us actively doing (by God’s grace) when Christ comes to fully establish his reign “on earth as it is in heaven.”
On this coming Christ the King Sunday in November, may we remember the true character of the reign of God among and within us. Let us remember that the true character of the kingdom of God, by the power of God’s grace, is all about peacemaking and compassionate service for the sake of the world.
Together in Christ’s Mission,