As events swirl around us in current society, both nationally and internationally, it is all too easy to become emotionally and intellectually involved in the various events and the debates surrounding them. This naturally leads to trepidation, anxiety, and a sense of fear of where the events will lead, and what society will look like in the coming years. Under inspiration, the Apostle Paul warned Timothy and the Church in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 that in the last days “perilous times” would come. This can also be translated as difficult or dangerous times. Paul lists various characteristics, which describe a general deterioration in the nature of mankind. All the effects listed are linked to one cause – men will be lovers of themselves. When man’s focus turns inward through self-love, things deteriorate quickly. If this were merely an academic discussion, we could deal with it more thoughtfully and pragmatically, as a detached observer might. The problem, of course, is we live in society and can get emotionally engaged in events that can lead us to become anxious about the future.
Recent challenges surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, including disruption of normal life, unemployment resulting from the shut-down of sectors of the economy, uncertainty about the future impact on the economy, and potential long-term and lasting changes in human interaction, shopping, and entertainment, are stressful and can grind us down. Our lives, our neighborhoods, and our world will never be the same, and we must come to terms with this and deal with it, as God’s people, with wisdom and understanding.
Societal upheavals have occurred for as long as there has been human history, many with far-reaching impact. However, we understand that what we are experiencing today is connected to the “last days” and represents precursors leading up to prophesied events in the future. This will place great pressure on each of us as we attempt to navigate the turbulence.
One method for successfully dealing with the events occurring in society is accepting our lack of control over them while elevating our perspective and maintaining a level of detachment. Although we lack control, God has total control over events and our lives. Even though we are in the world, we are no longer of the world, so there is a certain distance we must maintain. God knows our position and the difficulties we face, and we must accept that in faith. As an observer, our perspective changes, and we do not have to get “into the weeds” of events swirling around us. A certain level of detachment is therapeutic for us and reduces the stress we would otherwise experience. Also, no amount of worry, anger, or anxiety will change the course of societal events.
An effective strategy is contained in the analogy of a citizen of another kingdom who operates outside of the constraints and events of the current world. Paul uses this in Ephesians 2, contrasting our former state when we “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2) to the reality of our current state as “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
As citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we must recuse ourselves from the “course of this world” in which we no longer have a part, avoiding apparent or actual conflicts of interest, through public discussion and statements of opinion regarding societal events. Doing so is counter-productive to our calling as saints of God and members of the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). To use a common phrase, “we don’t have a dog in the fight.” We will, and should, watch events in this world, but much of what is produced in the media is designed to elicit an emotional response and produce a visceral reaction. This can be a trap for God’s people.
We should strive to take the high road, as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and maintain a certain distance and detachment from events of this world. The events we have been through recently are troubling and do not bode well for the future of society, but our response should be measured, thoughtful, and calm. During the dark days of the Second World War, when Great Britain was preparing for war with Germany, while facing the very real threat of invasion from across the English Channel, one poster produced by the British government to bolster the spirits of the citizens stood out from all the others. It said simply, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” They did, and so must we.