What's the World Coming To?
by Tasmanian Baptists Mission Director Stephen Baxter
There is no doubt the world is going through a time of great convulsion - environmental, economic, and social. It is not easy to see where all this is going.
Jesus encouraged his disciples by saying:
When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains.
Creation is groaning, as Paul writes in Romans 8, as it "waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (In the hope), will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God" (19, 21).
Now, nearly 2000 years later, we are still in "birth-pains" and creation is "groaning". The world is facing turmoil and there is great fear. Some suggest the planet would be best served if humanity allowed itself to go into extinction. But Paul's insight is that the future lies in the children of God stepping up and taking their place.
What might God be saying to us amid the current "groaning"? Is there a judgment within the pandemic?
What is God Saying?
To answer the question, we need to clarify what we mean by judgment.
If "judgment" means "punishment", and the question reads, "Is there punishment in the current pandemic?", then I think not. God is not punishing us, because Jesus has paid the penalty for sin and "the punishment that brought us peace was on him" (Isaiah 53:5).
However, if by judgment, we mean discernment and decision, then I do believe God may be judging us. That is, God is using the current convolutions to create a moment for reflection, assessment and repentance. A crisis like this alerts us of problems about our narratives of consumerism and globalism, holding us to account for our greed and folly.
Being Jesus' Church
This is not to blame anyone. It is a call to lament and repent.
It's a time to admit our own complicity in the crisis, a moment to allow the Holy Spirit to lift us out of our decay, and renew, revive and re-envision us.
What might it look like for us, the children of God, to rise up into our inheritance and be the Church Jesus calls us to be?
The Tasmanian Baptists' theme for this year is Emmanuel, God with us. This is good news. "God is working his purpose out, as year succeedsto year" as the 1894 hymn by Arthur Ainger puts it. So let's be alert to all God is doing within our world.
As we step into and unknown future amid the convulsions in and around us, we step with confidence, not in ourselves or in each other, but in our big brother Jesus who has gone before us.
So "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).