Friday, December 2, 2011

The end is near! So what?

      One thing that has confused me for some time is the fascination some folks have with knowing the future.  This came to mind again last Sunday.  In much of the western Christian world, last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, a four-week period of preparation leading up to Christmas.  One of the selections from the New Testament that (in my tradition) was appointed to be read had Jesus predicting the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (Luke 21:5-19).  His followers asked him when this would take place, what would be the signs that it would be about to happen.  Jesus refused to give a direct answer; indeed, in another place, he asserted that  "about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32). His message seems to have been: "Quit worrying about it!"
        What IS it about knowing the future?  If it is "fixed", then knowing about it wouldn't change anything anyway!  Any changes we might make in our life or habits would simply be a factor in what would happen anyway; it wouldn't change!  If the future is fixed, we can't run from it; it will be what it will be.  If the future isn't fixed, then how can one know it?  [The "Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come" in Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a different critter -- a ghost of a possible Christmas to come -- as Scrooge CAN, and does, make a change that affects that future.]   Indeed, knowing the future may even have bizarre effects on our behavior: "Well, the world's going to end, regardless of what I do, in 2012, just like the Mayans said! So I can behave any old way I want! What's the point in saving money, or saving the whales?"
        So I've never been one who has been that interested in the future.  When will the world end?  I don't know, and I probably can't do a lot to accelerate or delay it anyway.  I think it's much more important, and within my grasp, to attempt to forge, to create, a future that is worth inhabiting.  Gandhi, in his development of his theory of satyagraha, or "truth-force", in the context of an argument over whether or not the end justifies the means, wrote of the inseparability of means and ends: "They say, 'means are, after all means'. I would say, 'means are, after all, everything'. As the means so the end . . .  There is no wall of separation between the means and the end.  Indeed, the Creator has given us control (and that, too, very limited) over means, none over the end."*
        I would hope that the "end", the future I would hope to see, is the product of the means I employ to reach it. Right means -- that's enough to worry about!   Is the end near?  "So what . . . now?" seems the primary and appropriate question.



*R. K. Prabhu & U. R. Rao, editors; from section “The Gospel Of Sarvodaya, of the book The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahemadabad, India, Revised Edition, 1967.

1 comment:

  1. Mark 13:35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

    Jesus may not want people to worry about it and we ourselves can't change what God has designed for the future, but I do think it is good to talk about the second advent; what it means, when it might be (based on the changing of the seasons as Jesus makes reference to in another passage), and what we DO have the power over: our decision to have faith in God's grace and power to save.