It seems that as each year comes to a close, people are obsessed with reviewing what happened during the previous twelve months. There are a plethora of lists: top ten: movies, deaths, weddings, inventions, firings, hiring’s, developments etc. However, Christians look at world events differently than unbelievers. They watch the news and notice trends that have biblical significance. Jesus urged His disciples to recognize the “signs” of the time (Luke 21:29-33). Here are some of the trends I observed in 2012:
Violence perpetrated against innocent people. It has always been appalling to hear of acts of violence in society. However, 2012 highlighted these heinous crimes. What causes someone to open fire on people in a movie theater, a shopping mall an elementary school or while fighting a fire? What causes people to be so consumed by anger that they butcher a room filled with six-year-olds? Certainly mental illness plays a part. But so do dysfunctional families, self-absorption, and a society that dehumanizes people and glamorizes violence.
Violence toward the unborn. During the 2012 presidential election, Barak Obama continually assaulted Mitt Romney for his “pro-life” position toward abortion. Obama is clearly a successful politician and he recognized that being in favor of abortion would was popular stance for him to take. While it is certainly important to protect the rights of women, American society is increasingly focused on individual rights even if it is paid for with the lives of unborn children. Companies that resist providing abortions in their company health plans will face large fines in the future. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hold a “pro-life” position in America.
Individual selfishness versus corporate good. Americans are becoming increasingly obsessed with their own well-being and much less concerned with the welfare of society at large. Perhaps this is no more apparent than the national debt that presently sits at $16.4 trillion. Everyone knows you cannot spend more than you earn. Yet as a nation, people refuse to give up any benefit they currently receive, regardless of how devastating it will be for future generations. Ask most Americans what they think about the national debt and they will quickly assure you it must be reduced. Ask about giving up any benefits or entitlements they presently receive and you will immediately be informed that the government should save money elsewhere. Fewer and fewer people are prepared to make sacrifices for the greater good.
Politicians versus statesmen. The reason the nation is in the massive debt crater it is in today is because politicians, eager to gain or hold on to their office, have promised benefits to taxpayers that the country cannot afford. It has been said that once a democracy begins to give more to its citizens than it can afford, the nation will steadily decline. That’s because it is almost impossible to convince people to relinquish that which they currently possess. Instead, politicians continue to promise benefits the nation cannot afford, and voters keep electing them back into office. We are like children who continually press their impoverished parents to give them a higher allowance. As long as the beleaguered parents agree to the child’s demands, it matters not to the child where their parent comes up with the money.
Secularism. It has become clear that America is becoming increasingly secularized. Today, a public art gallery can exhibit blasphemous displays mocking God, yet is unable to exhibit manger scene at Christmas. Currently the fastest growing religious group in America is the segment that claims to have no religion whatsoever. For the Church, these days require a much different approach than merely listing next week’s sermon title and assuming people in the community will come.
Discredited leaders. The nation continues to parade a host of leaders who have fallen due to immorality or lack of ethics. Top generals, government, business, and church leaders are regularly being exposed as lacking personal integrity. The approval rating for members of Congress is at a record low. The role of leadership, once generally held in high esteem, is now viewed with widespread skepticism. Self-proclaimed leaders are in abundance, but people search in vain for those they can trust.
This is a particularly grim overview of 2012. But it is important to see society as it is. Jesus claimed that people were better at recognizing changing seasons in nature than they were at recognizing the signs of their times. The times in which we live requires a particular type of leadership. Today’s leaders will need to understand the nature of the society in which they function. They will need to recognize how God’s timeless truths speak to the needs of people today. They will need to function at the highest levels of integrity. They will have to lead creatively and guide their organizations to successfully navigate change, regularly.
As in every age, the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity for leaders to make a difference. Today’s society provides glorious opportunities for ordinary people to change their world for the better. Rather than being intimidated by the secular undercurrents sweeping modern society, Christians ought to eagerly seek God’s direction for their lives and for those they lead. The year 2013 will provide many challenges for Christians. However, for those who long to live a life that makes a difference for God’s kingdom, this New Year will provide ample opportunity!