It’s not unusual to hear people complaining about the present and longing for the “good ol’ days.” The complaints are about almost anything that requires new knowledge, different skills, or uncertainty.
Recently a friend of mine said something like “remember polio?” He was comparing that scourge to the current pandemic. During the early 50’s approximately 35,000 people a year became infected with polio. Our nation was terrified by the prospects of paralysis and being confined to an iron lung.
However, in 1952 a polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk proved to be highly effective and was made available for widespread use. We all lined up. Because of this vaccine and others that were developed, Polio has been virtually eliminated in the world. It’s good to remember the times in our past when the days weren’t “good ol'” and we had to do extraordinary things in order to avoid catastrophe.
There have been other such dark times: the Civil War, Jim Crow Laws, lynching, Watergate, Vietnam War, and the list goes on. There has never been a time when history was “good ol’.” The Bible reminds us of this as it rolls out the history of mankind and it’s resistance to the will of God: sin in the Garden, the perversity of man leading to the Flood, the corruption of the Israelite kings causing the total downfall of the nation of Israel, and the violent protests that led to the death of Jesus, the beheading of John, and the crucifixion of Peter.
The question this raises is not “how do we go back to the good ol’ days,” but rather “how do we live more righteously today?” We see glimmers of hope in the tiny human advances we make. I’m not talking about scientific advances, although those are also good. I am talking about how we occasionally learn how to treat each other better. Like bringing the vote to women and minorities. Like becoming more compassionate toward those that are disadvantaged and need a “leg up” on becoming advantaged. Like Head Start and student breakfasts served at school to the poor. Like opening a UC in the Central Valley to provide opportunities for those who normally don’t get that opportunity.
Going forward toward a hopeful future requires faith, courage, and honesty. Courageous people do not paint a rosy picture of the past, knowing that the past had its own troubles. We are not here to halt progress and the advance of the kingdom of God. We ARE here to live courageously in spite of the fact that the present may be at times frightening and uncertain.
Being hopeful, Kingdom focused people requires certain tools. Without these, we will be doomed to live in the past rather than the courageous future. There are five of them:
- Truthfulness. Believing lies, painting the past with rosy colors, and not aggressively pursuing facts and truth are opposites of truth seeking.
- Courage. Cowards will not take the risks and tackle hard problems. They will huddle in the fearful past.
- Faith. People who pray for and seek the Kingdom of God are, first and foremost, people who trust God. They believe that God is working behind the scenes to bring change and hope to the world.
- Sacrificial living. Kingdom people believe there are values, objectives, and loyalties worth dying for. Making human sacrifices for. These are people like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela who live for the wellbeing of those around them.
- Divine anger. Kingdom people are angry about the things in the world that deprive, hide, hoard, and limit other people. Like those who refuse to share, who have the ability to help others but don’t, and whose chief aim in life is to make their own lives comfortable.
A really good contemporary example of what happens to people who do not have a kingdom focus may be seen in the very recent collapse of a luxury condo building in Florida. It’s creation was shrouded in the schemes of people to avoid having to do the expensive thing of making it safe. Over 100 people died because of this.
Let’s call a spade a spade. Our times are as dark, at times, as events of the past. There is no “good ol’.” Let us be the leaders of our world who refused to be duped or frightened, but rather who walk courageously into God’s future.