Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world? By what you see on Facebook, in your newsfeed, on TV and social media?
I think about Afghanistan.
I think about Haiti.
I think about our Canadian Federal election and politics in general.
I think about the situation with COVID and the way it’s been politicized.
I think about how so many people are so polarized and divided and how it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have sane, thoughtful conversations.
I think about how social media like Facebook, despite its limited value, has many people attached to their phones and computers and the way in which this connects to the rise of depression, anxiety, and suicidality among young people.
It can all be too much at times.
How do we as Christians process all that we’re seeing and experiencing in the news and on Facebook and all around us?
I want to suggest that whatever else is going on around us, there are three things we need to remember while as Christians we go about living in this crazy world.
First, every human being is made in the image of God, and therefore has an intrinsic worth and dignity.
Consider Genesis 1:26—27: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.
We as human beings were created and are called to make something of and to steward well the world God has given to us. Every human is also loved by God, even those hated by us. No one is beyond hope or redemption while alive in this world.
Think of someone like former US president Trump. His very name is an immediate lightning rod for the most extreme emotions and opinions. But you know what the most basic fact about Trump is? He is infinitely loved by the God who made him and seeks to bring him into eternity.
Here’s the thing: each one of us is broken and sinful. The image of God in us has been tarnished and cracked. Sin has profoundly weakened our capacity for love and compassion. But being Christians means being conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). Apart from Christ, no one can be who God fully intends and desires them to be. God seeks to restore his image in us through Jesus. Including those we can so easily decry and mock and harbour ill feelings about;
How do we think about and talk to and treat those with whom we disagree? Do we treat them as people made in the image of God? Our desire ought to be to become more and more like Jesus. And that those we know who do not know and love him would have their hearts changed.
Second, God is sovereign over all human affairs whether we see him at work or not.
In Colossians 1:16—17 it says: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And in Job 42:2 we read: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
Our world is full of turmoil and violence and uncertainty. All we have to do is mention the names Haiti and Afghanistan as current examples to demonstrate this. So we can wonder: where is God in all of this?
But just because we can’t see God at work doesn’t mean he isn’t. And even if we can’t imagine the reasons God may have for allowing the sin and suffering of the world, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his reasons. Though it likely means our finite human minds would not be able to comprehend them.
And because God is sovereign, we should also be careful about depending too much on politics, politicians, or political parties.
Like it says in Psalm 2: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One: “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them.
But not only is there the world around us; there’s also the world within each of us. God’s sovereign extends to our own personal circumstances too. Romans 8:28—29: We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
This verse from Paul is often misunderstood and misapplied. What people often hear him saying is that God will use the bad stuff to bring about the good stuff. In this way, we define what is good. But when Paul talks about the good of those who love God, he doesn’t mean good on our terms. The good to which he refers is being conformed into the image of Jesus. And being conformed into the image of Jesus by necessity involves suffering and hardship. It is the pattern of life Jesus laid down for us.
Speaking of Jesus, God’s sovereignty also means looking ahead to the glorious return of Jesus. 1 Timothy 6:15—16 says: God will bring this about in his own time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen.
The way things are is not the way they will always be. There will be a new heavens and earth. There will be both cosmic and personal resurrection. God in his sovereignty promises and guarantees this.
Third, our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus as Lord, not to anyone or anything else in this world.
In Colossians 2:6—7 the apostle Paul says: So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.
Christians often are excited and ready to think of Jesus as Savior. But to think of him as Lord? That’s another matter. This means he is our authority. We seek to live according to his will, and not our comfort or desires. This ought to set us apart. When tempted by Satan in the wilderness to worship him in return for all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus said “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” These words are ones we need to take to heart too.
People are built to worship. Everyone worships. But not everyone worships the Lord Jesus. People can worship money, pleasure, comfort, career, success, sex, popularity, family, and all kinds of things. These days, many seem to worship or to give their ultimate loyalty to politics. We should never be entirely comfortable with any of the leaders, institutions, systems, or ways of this world. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to think we have to give our loyalty to anyone but Jesus or that giving our loyalty to this or that political party is the only way of being loyal to Jesus.
This means we are called not only to believe in Jesus, but to reflect his character to those around us. This means we have to get to know Jesus and not just make assumptions about him. Who is this Jesus? How does he relate to the people he encounters? How does he live out the will of the Father? What do we learn about how to follow Jesus by watching Jesus? This means we will seek and pray for the coming of the kingdom in our everyday lives, for God’s will to be done in simple, everyday ways.
Now, here are a few simple ways to apply some of these thoughts.
First, fast from technology and social media for a morning, an evening, a day, or a weekend. Take a break from the news and Facebook. Use the time you would have wasted online to read the Bible, go for a quiet walk, write a letter to someone you miss, or start a prayer journal. Get rid of external distractions. Become more comfortable with boredom.
Second, pray for people who annoy you, with whom you disagree, or who have disappointed you. Pray a silent prayer for the waitress who brings you food, the cashier who rings your items through the checkout, or the telemarketer who calls you at supper trying to sell you something. Ask God to help you see them as people made in his image, that he loves, that he wants to see come to his Son, our Lord, Jesus.
Third, maybe invite someone out for coffee or over for lunch. Show hospitality. Seek to bless others not only with kind deeds but with gracious, enjoyable conversation. Build relationships. Get out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to the people around you–perhaps you might notice someone who needs a friend.
We live in an increasingly crazy world. We can find ourselves overwhelmed. We have as much access to news across the globe as we do to news in our own community. And we don’t always know how to discern what to give our attention to. But maybe we don’t always need to know what’s happening in other parts of the world. Maybe sometimes it’s ok to live for Jesus right where we are, to learn to be present with the people who we live with, who we encounter day after day.
We wonder sometimes if we can really make a difference, if our lives can have a meaningful impact on others. I’ve been a pastor for nearly 20 years and I still wonder this! But if you’re a follower of Jesus, your life is a holy life. God can and does use you right where you are. You don’t need to be someone else. You don’t need to be somewhere else. I heard someone say years ago: “Bloom where you’re planted.” Live as a follower of Jesus right where you are. Even with everything else that’s going on around us, maybe that’s something of what it means–or even mostly what it means–to live as a Christian in this crazy world.