Most conversations regarding the world these days are saturated with fear. Terrorism, natural disasters, shootings, glorified immorality, politicians with crazy ideas. The world is a scary place, we are being told. Panic, freak out, move to Mars because our world is a disaster. (And if Mars isn’t an option, try Canada. The least we can do is escape the impending doom America is headed towards.)
“It’s dangerous business, going out your door,” Biblo warned Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, and we all agree.
Things seem semi-controllable from inside my 500 square foot apartment. I can monitor the heat, the food eaten, the things that are said. Take one step out of it and who knows where I’ll be swept off to. Let us then cloister ourselves, we say. Remove ourselves from the fraying culture around us, and judge the world from the places of safety in which we’ve hidden.
I wonder if the members of the Colossian church felt similarly. Faced with a pluralistic and secularized culture, watching the Godless leaders of Rome rise to power. I wonder if they felt like the whole world was going crazy, that it was headed towards disaster. Perhaps that is the reason Paul felt the need to open their eyes to the good things that were happening.
This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. – Colossians 1:6 (NLT)
The Gospel was revolutionizing the world they lived in. Spreading like wild fire, it was reaching all the corners of the known world at that time – transforming hearts and changing lives. It was an exciting time to be alive in – just read Ben Hur or The Robe. But there were still some who were missing the potency of this movement. They were fixated on the danger of the world, unable to catch the vision of hope.
There are many of whom the same could be said today.
Because when we refuse to step out our front door we are refusing to open our eyes to hope.
Hope that the story is not over. That even as we speak God is at work. Hope that in the darkest hour His light shines brightest. That as the kingdoms of this world come and go, His kingdom is continually being built and fortified.
Maybe we aren’t scared. Maybe we are just self-absorbed. It is easy to fall into narrow-mindedness when it comes to the Christian faith. Focused only on how Christ’s message is affecting us, as solitary units. Accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior has become the basis of Evangelical Christianity, but the problem with making him our personal God is that we miss out on the fact that He is also the worldwide God. We want Jesus to be our boyfriend, and we forget that the church as a whole – not us as individuals – is called His bride.
And the result of this individualistic Christianity, whether it stems from fear or from pride, is that the sheer wonder at the scope of our God’s involvement on earth has been lost.
No wonder we’re in a panic.
But into our frenzy and doomsaying, the Lord reminds us quietly to look around. The same Gospel that has come to you and changed your heart and is bearing fruit in your every day life, has spread across the world – bringing hope and restoration to all who will hear it.
So I go to a church in the neighboring small town to play piano one Sunday. They greet me with warmth, they include me into their midst, they preach truth, and I am reminded of the universality of the gospel.
I reach out to a sister in Christ in Hawaii. Life on an island three thousand miles away from my mountain town seems drastically different. But our hearts connect because we are under the same banner.
I read updates from my brother and sister-in-law in Ukraine as they move towards the daunting task of church planting. And though they are ministering to a different culture than mine and though they don’t even share the same alphabet, the God who goes before me in my daily work is also surrounding them in theirs.
All around the world the same gospel that transformed me is bearing fruit and changing lives.
Yes, the world is a big place. It holds much to be afraid of. No one is really safe, there is no knowing where you’ll be swept off to. But more substanstial than the inevitable decay of our world is the promised hope of the coming of the Kingdom of God. It is being built up right as we speak, and the beauty of its presence will overshadow the brokenness of the earth.
So step out your door. The kingdom is near. Our God is at work.
Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. -Frederick Buechner