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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Signs of end times

We see what we're looking for

"Pastor, don't you think the end is coming? Look how bad things are. Look at the floods and earthquakes." People are so certain the world is a worse place now. It's hard to answer with certainty, but I have some standard responses.

First of all is communication. Today if an earthquake occurs anywhere in the world, we hear about it. Sometimes within hours. If a chemical spill occurs on the coast or a factory explodes in the heartland, we hear about it. Our society doesn't miss any bad news. One murder involving a celebrity fascinates and distracts us on a national — even global — level.

Second, we have more people. Are there four times as many murders, or just four times the people? The world and its cities are more crowded, so increased friction seems natural. When a city grows from 50,000 to 100,000, the quantity and nature of crime will change.

Third, we pay less attention to the good stories. A single parent vented some frustration my way: "I'm tired of hearing people say this isn't a friendly community. This community has taken much better care of me than the last two where I lived. People complain about racism. In the recent snowstorms, race didn't seem to matter. People saw me shoveling. They pulled off the street with heavy equipment to clear my driveway. It wasn't a matter of race. These are good people here."

When I meet with confirmation students one-on-one, I don't seem to find any morally challenged children. When I meet with adults one-on-one, I don't find moral depravity. I find human beings who are at the same time saint and sinner. They struggle with real choices and sometimes make wrong decisions. Let me tell you, I can relate to their mistakes.

If it looks like the world is heading toward destruction, if you are certain it is, maybe that's what you are looking for. I suggest a change of view. Look at something else for a while.

"Pastor, don't you think the end is coming?" Sure I do. "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" But in the meantime, neat things are going on in this world. Look around. I don't think the world has ever really been any better than it is right now.


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