It seems that way, doesn’t it?
Racial tensions are high.
Radical Islamic terrorists are killing innocent people in more and more countries.
Political divisions in the United States run deep.
The federal government continues to run up debt with no end in sight.
Behaviors that used to be wrong are now seen as right and a dissenting opinion isn’t welcomed.
The marriage rate is at an all-time low.
The Ebola virus is spreading.
The United States has lost control of its southern border.
Christian values, once seen as good and noble, are now viewed as intolerant and unacceptable.
It’s never been this bad. Or has it?
I imagine first century Christians who were being persecuted by the Roman Empire felt it was pretty bad. And those who suffered through the plague during the 1300’s when millions of people died probably felt it was as bad as it had ever been. The Great Depression seemed like the worst it had ever been. And World War I. And World War II. And the list could go on.
In Matthew 10, Jesus is giving His disciples instructions before He sends them out to do ministry. Here’s part of what He told them:
16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.“ 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.” But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.
24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons,” the members of my household will be called by even worse names!
26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!
28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.“ 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.
35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’“
37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
40 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
I’m pretty sure if I’d just been given those instructions, I’d be thinking it was as bad as it’s ever been. We’re going to be arrested? Flogged? We’re going to stand trial? Family members will betray each other?
What Jesus said to His disciples two thousand years ago is just as applicable today…
- “Don’t be afraid.” He says it three times.
- If we love anyone, including family members or our own lives, more than Him, then we’re not worthy of Him.
- If we acknowledge Him on earth, He’ll acknowledge us before the Father.
- If we give up our life for Him, we’ll find it.
Is the world in worse shape than it’s ever been? I have no idea. And it’s really not the point.