“It’s really distressing, every morning I read about the latest bombing, protest, attack, or poverty stricken area… What do you Christians make of it?” asked my neighbour Jack while flipping a greasy burger on his BBQ. Like a ship without an anchor, Jack’s thoughts drifted aimlessly, hopeful of some port of refuge where he could make sense of the news.
For the thoughtful observer, a search for meaning in much of our news calls for interpretation beyond typically functional measures. Many need more satisfying interpretations beyond trendy psychological insights on why the latest pop star punched his driver, political or social implications of scandal, or forecasts of rain or shine. Even Jesus chided folks for interpreting the weather while failing to interpret the times! (Luke 12:54-56) It seems Jesus didn’t look at our world’s major events as a series of events that have nothing to do with our lives. Economic, political, and social news all pointed towards a needed interpretation of deeper, spiritual, significance with personal implications. Perhaps we would make more sense of the news if we also used this spiritual lens of interpretation.
Though much of the news we hear or read about doesn’t directly involve us, we needn’t be just casual observers. Interpreting the “signs of the times” invites listeners to interpret and respond in a thoughtful way. What might this look like? Well, one way is found in Luke 13:2-3. Jesus is told some news about a corrupt governor named Pilate who had killed some rebellious men from Galilee in an awful way. Jesus responded, “Do you suppose these Galileans were worse sinners because they suffered in this way? They weren’t. But unless you turn to God, you too will die.” This isn’t a political commentary, rather it’s a significant spiritual insight inviting personal response. Jesus reminds the audience each person has made mistakes and must turn their life towards God. This news reminds the audience of both the brokenness of our world and our need of a Saviour. Of course, there are many other insights using this framework significant to our news today, each offering a thoughtful response we may employ: What would redemption look like in this situation, how might I proactively respond to this suffering, can I act as a peacemaker, how does this affect where I purchase my daily goods….or perhaps the latest despotic dictator reminds us of our own personal brokenness and need of God’s invitation of grace.
In any case, this is the task and benefit of “interpreting the signs of the times” each is invited to explore. For people like Jack perhaps the bewildering tragedy of another global issue may not lose the sense of brokenness, yet a spiritual interpretation may offer a healing balm and thoughtful response. The Christian hope in Christ is one day we will no longer hear news of distress, yet in the meantime our spiritual interpretation may offer a meaningful and significant anchor during a storm.