By Ward Shope
Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, but I rarely take a deep look at the news anymore. Much of what is reported appears either bad or negative: shootings, accusations, terrorist attacks, cyberattacks and more. “Joyful anticipation” does not describe my tentative approach into what’s happening in the world and in the region. I want to know, but I expect the worst. I’m just hoping the damage is kept to a minimum that day. In a world that is already fast-paced and pressured for many of us, the news provides no relief.
Of course, there are diversions. Sports works for many. While the major sports teams may have disappointed this year, we love talking about them. (Did you know the Philadelphia Soul are undefeated?) And then there is the entertainment industry, which continues to grow by leaps and bounds: music, YouTube, movies, Facebook, and celebrities. Getting settled into a good novel also provides a way of escape. I like Sudoku and food. We are all looking for that elusive panacea that places some distance between the tension of daily life and a heart that yearns for respite.
All of these hobbies probably have their place. But the place they take in our particular lives is always a challenge. Am I simply escaping – ignoring the “real” world while it continues to careen into a hopeless state? I imagine myself as a child happily playing on the edge of a sinkhole, unwilling to acknowledge that at any time I could be swallowed up by an evil far larger than myself.
Of course, escape is not the only option for relief in our world. Being devoted to diversion leads to victimhood. And Jesus never approaches his disciples or us as helpless victims. It doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to us, sometimes because we follow Jesus. We all are called to actively take up our cross and follow Him. That will look different for all of us. But the choice to follow Him is life-embracing. It doesn’t seek distance from real life, but rather throws us into eternally meaningful activity. The things we do with, for, and through Jesus are the things that last forever. The relationships we build because of him, the people we serve on His behalf, the world we approach for His sake because He wants to redeem it, are the most life-affirming and life-giving things we can do.
Knowing that reminds me that the “news” is only partly real. It reduces reality to only the things this world cares to see or report and presents it as if that’s all there is. If God were writing the news, He would be reporting far different things and we would be amazed at the growth of His Kingdom work in this world now, and the steady progress being made towards an age where He reigns and makes all things new. Many signs would be noted of the new age breaking through, and how disaster only leads to deeper Kingdom work.
This reminder of the reality beyond the news keeps me engaged. I look for ways that Jesus is working in my life and the life of those around me. What person has God put in my path today, or what person has He called me to pursue today to share something of Him with them? What cause or activity does the most for his Kingdom in a world that has many causes and activities. Following in this way doesn’t make the “news”, but it shares His news – which is far deeper, powerful and hopeful.