There are many Biblical Prophecies pointing to terrible hardship in humanity’s future: Of famine, disease, war, death and global cataclysm. But the one that scares me the most is a small phrase from Jesus’ prophecy on the Mount of Olives about the end times in Matthew 24:12. He simply says, “…the hearts of most will grow cold.”
Why does this word of prophecy scare me more than the others? Because when the cold of famine, disease, war and death strike, it is those moments of a sharing humanity (in love, generosity, compassion, and sacrifice) that warm, comfort and preserve us, keeping us alive in the face of hardship.
Today, the world really is a cold place for so many of us experiencing great struggle. Across the world, we see it in the face of refugees fleeing their homes, and leaving behind country, culture and family. We see it in the gaunt faces of children in places swept by famine, or in lands made barren by war. And we see it here in our own families and communities: In those battling a mental illness and depression, often alone. In trauma from broken or abusive relationships and violence. In slavery to addictions. In bitterness and angry wounds that refuse to heal. In desperate poverty; lacking food, shelter, safety, and supportive community. It is an unending shiver that sinks weariness into our bones.
So why do we so often choose to answer this cold with cold? Like those upstanding model citizens in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we often see the need of a neighbour, but choose to keep our distance and keep walking. When we are asked to respond in some way to the plight of a refugee or the person seeking an affordable home in our communities, we often choose a cold academic discussion about possible negative pressures and impacts on our way of life over a gentler, deeper, wiser and more compassionate conversation that acknowledges the humanity of our neighbour and seeks health and vibrancy for all.
“The crisis is too big for us to get involved in,” we say. “Their wounds are too angry, and we do not have the skills to help them. We need to protect ourselves; afraid that this person may turn around and hurt us. We do not believe it is possible for someone to heal from this trauma, break from their past, or break from an addiction. Better to keep our doors locked tight, and let our neighbours sort out whatever hand God, or fate, or their own actions have dealt them. Best look out for number one. Best keep walking.”
Or we can choose to respond with warmth and humanity as the Samaritan (an outsider) did in Jesus’ parable. On seeing this man lying naked and half dead on the side of the road, “he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
For followers of Jesus, choosing the cold response is not an option. It is true that we as people are limited in what we can do. We cannot solve every problem, or respond to every crisis, and we must always find time to rest along the way. But we must always be ready to respond as God calls us: to a life full of love, hope and trust, patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, commitment, compassion, hospitality, self-control, wisdom and sacrifice; to live as steady and warm expressions of the loving God we serve.
…so the cold does not win.
Below is a link to a powerful award-winning video that I think speaks beautifully to this work of fighting together against the cold:
The Deepening Community Rap
By Pastor Mike Van Boom, from Centrepointe church (Christian Reformed)