“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matthew 25:13)
As I was driving home one day last week, I heard the song "Eve of Destruction" by Barry McGuire. It was a 1960's protest song written by a 19 year old kid, P.F.Sloan. It talks about the war in Vietnam, racial tensions, the atomic bomb, tensions with China, many of the issues facing the world at the time. Then in the refrain McGuire sings,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction
McGuire recorded the song in 1965, and while the song's intent is not predicting the end of the world, it captured the feeling of the time that the world was certainly (as my father used to say) going to hell in a hand basket.
Hearing the song got me thinking about other musical declarations of the end of time. I was in college in 1987 when the band R.E.M. released their apocalyptic ode titled, "It's the End of the World as We Know It." A couple of years later, Billy Joel released, "We Didn't Start the Fire" which also captured a sense of how bad things were and had been for a long time. I even remember my parents talking about what a scandal early rock and roll was and how their parents' generation thought it was a sign of the fall of civilization, especially that Elvis Presley!
I offer up these reflections as a proverbial "grain of salt" as we seem so utterly consumed by how bad things are in the world today. Yes, we are afflicted with a global pandemic, deep divisions among society, racial tensions, international troubles, economic worries, and on, and on, and on. Is it worse than it's ever been? I didn't live through the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, and WWII, but I hear that was pretty bad. Is this the end of the world as we know it? Jesus warned us not to get caught up in that kind of thinking.
When Jesus said, "Keep awake," did he mean keep your eyes peeled on the horizon for the coming end? Or did he mean keep doing the things I have taught you like loving God, loving your neighbor, and caring for one another? Rather than thinking the end of the world is near and giving up, remember how Jesus said the kingdom of God is near and let us work toward that.
People have been predicting the end of the world since ancient times. Remember the Mayans? Every one of them has been wrong. So no, my friends, I don't believe we are on the eve of destruction.