Wars and rumours of wars. Seems like that is the perpetual condition of the human race. We are either in one or the potential for the next one is just around the corner. Fear and uncertainty reign or at least drive up television ratings and ignite social media firestorms. What does one do in the face of this?
The phrase “wars and rumours of wars” comes from a conversation Jesus had with his disciples who were very worried about the end of the world as they knew it at the time. From Matthew’s account of the conversation:
‘As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars.”‘ Matthew 24:3-6
For those familiar with this passage, you will know that Jesus goes on to provide a detailed answer to their question and many books have been written about various “end times” scenarios (or eschatology) arising from his answer. That is not the point of this post and frankly something we find tiring and irrelevant to how we live our lives in the present. Leave the endless discussions and debates to the scholars and theologians who tend to enjoy these types of things. We prefer to ask the most important question that can ever be asked – “So what?”
From the beginning of history, humans have constantly wondered if their next breath could be their last because of some impending calamity with one of the worst being war. It was no different in Jesus’ day as the people of that time lived under the violent rule of the Roman empire. Wars and violence were regular occurrences for centuries and the Romans were good at it. The Jews in the first century were keenly aware of it, hence the question to Jesus. Wars and rumours of wars.
Of course it didn’t end with the Romans….
The sacking of Rome by the European hordes (Goths, Vandals, Huns and other violent barbarians) and the subsequent fall of the Roman empire in the 5th century.
The rise of Islam and the Muslim wars of the 7th and 8th centuries.
The Viking raids on Britain and Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries.
Who can forget the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and the wars that followed?
How about the Crusades in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries?
We can’t leave out the Mongols and the terror they inflicted on most of the known world in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Wars and rumours of wars.
Fast forward to the Hundred Years War that inflamed Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, the wars of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century and the various civil wars in England and Scotland in the 17th century.
More recent history includes the American War of Independence in the 18th century, the US civil war in the 19th century followed by World War I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam in the 20th century.
Wars and rumours of wars.
These wars and conflicts are just scratching the surface of the violent history of mankind on planet earth. Place yourself anywhere on the planet at any time in human history and you and your loved ones were either in the midst of being wiped out or in a situation where the possibility was just around the corner. In fact, you would probably have been thinking that the end of the world and civilization was imminent. Times of peace and prosperity are the exception in human history not the norm.
All of this leads us to the current day.
“If Hillary Clinton is elected, she will usher in World War III.”
“Donald Trump has been elected and a lunatic is now carrying the nuclear codes in his pocket. Humanity is doomed.”
“Vladimir Putin wants to take more territory for Russia and will go nuclear to get it.”
“China will continue to provoke the world by expanding its territory in Asia and provoke a war with the West.”
“Radical Islam is the true Muslim faith and their intent is to create a caliphate and destroy the infidel West.”
Wars and rumours of wars.
Perhaps now would be a good time to go back to Jesus’ words to his disciples and continue to listen in on the conversation:
“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.“ Matthew 24:6
Ignoring the eschatology angle that so many take with Matthew 24, think about the fact that countless millions of men and women over the centuries believed they were truly facing the end. The reality was that they were not and neither are we. The core of Jesus’ words remain just as true now as they were when he first uttered them. No matter how bad things appear to be, see that you are not frightened. The end is not yet. As Jesus goes on in this conversation in chapters 24 and 25, he describes many horrific things to come but he implores his listeners to watch, be prepared, invest their talents and take care of the least of these. The emphasis is not trembling in fear and self-preserving but instead focusing on being resourceful and a difference-maker despite what is happening around them.
So as you reflect on what is going on around you at the moment, fear not and go about doing good, bringing hope and healing to whatever you touch.