We need a rediscovery of thoughtfulness in a world afflicted by a “dearth of depth and surfeit of superficiality.” (John Blanchard). The immediacy of experiences and information inflate human arrogance and make everyone a pseudo-expert. We have three tyrannies working: 1) experts competing for power; 2) the ubiquity of information that people confuse with true wisdom; and 3) a public square paralyzed by polarization that devolves into personal alienation instead of civil debate and learning.
We live in a world of instant information. This can be deceptive, because access to data and opinions is not the same thing as accurate information or insight. The other phenomenon is that a rumor or storyline is repeated so often that it becomes “fact” in the minds of many. And when it is later found to be partially or wholly untrue, a belated retraction cannot undo the damage to public knowledge. Information flows, but insight leading to integration of thought and practice is harder to find.
It is time for biblical thoughtfulness, for a fresh understanding of what the Apostle Paul refers to as the transformed mind of the follower of Christ. Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 4:22-24, building on the foundations of OT wisdom literature and the instructions of Jesus, offer hope for inner transformation leading to practical actions that honor God and serve our neighbors. The key word in both passages is transformation. The word is metamorphosis in the Greek and its underlying meaning denotes total change, reorientation, and a new mind.
Instead of unreflected and unfiltered reactions to life, here is a summary of a pathway to thoughtfulness:
- We receive events, inputs, inner intuitions and thoughts that create and refine the “lenses” through which we understand our world. We all have conscious and unconscious influences that affect our thinking. The thoughtful person recognizes these and takes time to absorb (not repress or suppress) the experiences.
- Instead of reacting immediately, we reflect on our feelings and thoughts and pause before saying or writing things we might regret.
- This reflection is then united with research, with the goal of understanding the different perspectives on the issues at hand.
- Receiving, reflecting, and research are all done subject to God’s revelation found in his two books. The first is Holy Scripture. Our question must always be, “How does God’s Word speak to this experience or issue directly or indirectly? The second book is God’s common grace or natural revelation. This consists of the best empirical and rational thinking in various fields.
- Finally, the thoughtful woman or man responds to the situation with as much grace and truth as possible.
May we be people of reflection and research, submitting to revelation and responding with love and wisdom in a world awash with emotionalism and irrationalism.
In recent weeks, several friends and leaders have asked about the current circumstances and their relationship to biblical prophecy and the “end times.” Space does not permit analysis of all the perspectives, books and videos, and many voices vying for attention. I have prayerfully distilled some insights that I hope will be helpful. I am synthesizing biblical, historical, and contemporary voices:
- We have been in the “final hour” since the Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit. There have been many antichrist figures and movements and many amazing awakenings and missionary advances. Such will be the case until the Lord returns in glory. We will see great apostasies and great awakenings, global advances of the church and tragic unfaithfulness from many.
- The natural disasters and supernatural warfare are all previews or precursors of the final Day of the Lord. Other generations of believers have suffered greatly and advanced the kingdom under severe persecution and economic challenge. America is not the center of biblical attention – we are one of the “distant lands” and must humbly accept that we are both blessed and subject to divine judgment.
- God has called us to occupy well until Jesus comes. The Lord wants us alert and prayerful, on duty for him…as we do our everyday assignments on the frontlines of mission. Our daily work – home or office, field or factory, labor or leadership, paid or unpaid – is not merely a means to an end…it is part of the divine economy and providential provision for our community as well as our families. “Watch and pray” is a clarion call to intercession and discernment.
- We must be ready at any moment to give an account to God (Luke 12). Rather than speculate or live selfishly, our Lord has called us as exiles to live faithfully as missionary believers and communities, seeking the good of our communities and nations (Jer. 29). We may feel alienated or marginalized, but we have great power through humility and loving service.
- We are not to run to our bunkers or head to the hills, but be salt and light (Matthew 5), and shining stars in a wicked world (Philippians 2). We are the mustard seed and the yeast in Jesus’ parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13), influencing all facets of our world for the God’s glory and the good of others.
- It is not wrong to wonder if we are very close to Christ’s Return – we are! It is the next great event in God’s restoration calendar. We should have a sense of anticipation – and plant trees for our grandchildren. We should be urgent about sharing our faith – and earn the right to be heard by how we live.
Jesus saves the whole person – body, soul, and spirit. Jesus is also redeeming all of creation and every community. There will be continuity between our current work for him and our future work in the new heavens and new earth (Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright and Randy Alcorn’s 700-page work on heaven give solid insights here). We can reject apathy and triumphalism, keep fear away and allow faith to inform our vision invite others to the Gospel journey of faithfulness.
Learning thoughtfulness amidst the overwhelming data around us is challenging. In our desires for peace and justice, we must refine our critical thinking capacities and recognize what is timeless truth and what are timely opinions.
Here are some differences that make a difference:
Legitimate outrage about racism vs. anarchy and destruction.
Repairing historic, systemic injustices vs. calls for ending the family and imposing Marxism.
Repentance of prejudices of class, gender, and race vs. hatred for anyone with traditional values.
Passionate, principled debate vs. a cancel culture of personal destruction.
Building a world with true toleration vs. fear of violence.
Serious journalistic inquiry and allowing real evidence to further investigation vs. repetition of talking points and allegations.
Repairing our environment vs. alarmism cloaking wealth redistribution.
Accepting history as a tapestry of beautiful and broken narratives vs. cherry picking for agendas.
Treating every person with dignity and respect and respecting cultural diversity vs. blanket categorizations and generalizations.
Freedom of conscience allowing us to bring our best selves to the public square vs. privatizing any moral and religious convictions.
Let’s help the world be more thoughtful.