Friendly… not friendly? I couldn’t find out, the dog only barked in French. He certainly looked the part of a trusty guardian.
Being a dog-lover, I wanted to make friends. But I didn’t know what “Good boy” sounds like in France, and “Please don’t bite my leg” was way out of my linguistic range! So I kept a safe distance and both eyes open, just in case. Both of us on guard.
Knowing who and what to trust isn’t easy. What with unknown animals, conspiracy theorists, Brexit scars, economic fears and climate concerns we all have our hands full. Then, of course, there’s a pandemic still playing merry heck with everything. Unsurprisingly, there is pessimism in the air. As often happens in troubled times, questions about the future- or lack of future- are on people’s minds.
It was much the same when Jesus faced off against Satan, a rebellious desperate nation, and the might of the Roman Empire. Occupied Israel hated the presence of the invaders (except those who profited: human nature hasn’t changed) and clung to the hope of a Redeemer. Half lauded Jesus as the Anointed Messiah, the rest sought ways to hush him up or do away with him. Ever since, Christians have looked at the somewhat cryptic words of Jesus in Mark 13 where he gave hints and warnings- and then said this:
Mark 13:32-34 (New Living Translation) “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert! The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return." Shortly after, Jesus "went on a long trip" via the Cross, Resurrection and Ascension. His orders were clear: Be on your guard! Watch for the return of the King.
Being READY is the key thing- staying alert, because no-one knows the timing other than our Almighty Father God.
So when wild-eyed “prophets” or smooth-talking preachers or alarmist conspirators try and goad you into unwise reactions, relax. They don’t know. They’re guessing, or sincerely wrong, or (worst case) deceptive and dangerous. They DON’T know.
Like a broken watch, one will be right once- but it will be accident, not prophecy. Jesus said so (And I choose to believe Him).
Yet we ARE told to stand watch, stay on guard, keep alert. We can and should remind the world that there IS a power beyond ours. God is working history out to its end point- and its new beginning. There are signs that warn us to pay attention. Our role is to bear witness to the loving grace of God, to the life-changing grace which reaches out to those who willingly receive it. As watchmen, our call is “It’s nearly TIME… all is not well… but Jesus is the Redeemer and Lord.”
Pessimism or fatalism are not the answer. Jesus is. Alarmism is not the way to be, dragged down by anxiety. Blind optimism is just blind. Realism and wisdom lead us towards actively trusting (and enjoying!) God who loves this cosmos SO MUCH.
It’s wise to get straight, to turn to God instead of away from Him, to fire up our passion rather than wallow in apathy. Work towards holy lives. Serve God and our bit of the world with compassion and generous love.
Time is limited. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!