ATTN: Don’t worry about the world; worry about your neighbor

By Joel A. Hess

Recently, a friend posted something on Facebook that we all probably think from time to time. She wrote, “The World must be coming to an end!” She then listed a number of examples from the news headlines and concluded by pleading to her audience, “Turn back to God!”

Things do look bleak. Everything is falling apart. Worse, we don’t seem to have any competent leaders in whom we can place our hope. The headline news can feel suffocating as all the problems of the world close in on us.

My friend concluded her fearful plea with the classic, “We need to turn back to God!” While that is a true statement for all people all the time, I’m afraid even worldwide repentance would not stop the world from ending at all. The world is going to come to a grinding halt! There is nothing we can do about it. We can’t slow it down or hasten it! It is like the inevitability of your favorite band starting to suck by their tenth album.

Too often, we find gigantic global issues holding our brains and spirits hostage. More than ever, American Christians are losing sleep over everything from the absurd choice of the future president to terrorist attacks in France.

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I have discovered myself addressing one cataclysmic event after another in sermons Sunday after Sunday. Unfortunately, all of this global chaos steals our attention from the things God has actually given us to be concerned about. Don’t worry about the world; worry about your neighbor. Before all the insanity began appearing regularly in your newsfeed, your neighbor was undergoing her own personal crisis: the death of a loved one, a husband addicted to porn who is now abusive, a son who struggles with suicidal thoughts. To each person, these struggles are no less debilitating than the riots in Ferguson. This past week, while I was stressing out about Putin’s clamping down on evangelism in Russia, two young kids had to be told their father would not be coming home again; he’s with Jesus. How is this event any less a crisis than whole Vietnam war?

Yet, unlike those gigantic issues, God has placed you directly in the lives of your neighbors. Your affiliation with a political party doesn’t matter to their problems. Your thoughts on gun control policy don’t mean a damn thing to their fear of death. Your opinion on how to stop ISIS will not dry their tears.

Yes, God certainly directs the universe. Jesus reigns. All things matter to Him, even who wins the race to lead this failed experiment we call the USA. He will take care of it all! And perhaps your vocation requires you to worry about global affairs, so do your best.

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Yet, Christ’s mission through His church is not to fix the world, or even change it for that matter, though that is coming for sure. Come, Lord Jesus. Christ’s mission through His church is not to slowly perfect or even reform the world. He didn’t come to make things better; he came to raise the dead! Through the Church, through the hands and mouths of His people, Jesus kills and resurrects real flesh and blood, people, through the preaching of His Word, the drowning in the waters of Baptism, and the resuscitating meal of the Eucharist.

So turn off your TV and newsfeed, and stop worrying about the world. You know where it is going, after all. Start worrying about your neighbor, who you can actually hug and who can actually hear your life-giving words in Christ.

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