In Galatians, Paul mentions something interesting. He describes his time as “the present evil age” (Gal 1:4). Yikes, I wouldn’t want to live then! He is referring to his age, in the 1st century, but it also rings true for us, two thousands years later. We often experience our own age as very evil. It can even feel like our own present age is actually worse than ages that came before it. That’s an impossible case to make historically, but nevertheless it can often feel like we’re in a downward spiral of social degradation!
My point is that Paul’s language of an ‘evil age’ applies also to us. For the last two thousands years Christians have been living in an environment that could be described as ‘evil’. It’s still presently the case, and will be for the foreseeable future. What Paul described as ‘the present evil age’ is not going anywhere. We had better come to terms with that, and figure out a few things. We need to figure out how to have a healthier relationship with the larger culture. In light of our age, I believe that God has given Christians with a job to do, and here is our job description:
Job #1: No whining
Christians often rant and rail against this present evil age, maintaining a fever-pitch of righteous indignation and offended-ness. It ain’t healthy. There is nothing attractive about it. It has no similarity to Jesus’ ministry, or semblance of the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus was so attractive and interesting to people that they dropped everything and followed him around. It’s hard to imagine that happening now. Furthermore, Paul, whose suffering makes our own look like a paper cut, does not become indignant at it. Our own sense of entitlement has placed a temptation before us. We are tempted to see ourselves as disenfranchised. If Paul doesn’t feel disenfranchised or wronged by the present evil age, even with all that he went through, then we don’t have the right to feel wronged or disenfranchised by it. The man was shipwrecked people! The man was bitten by a poisonous snake, immediately after a shipwreck! That’s a bad day! Part of our job description as Christians is avoid indignation, and the believe that we have been disenfranchised.
Job #2: Reveal the God of all Comfort
It’s important to remember that this present evil age is an equal-opportunity force of destruction. Christians and non-Christians alike are suffering the effects. Part of our job description is to comfort others with the measure of comfort we ourselves have received from God. Our God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Co 1:3b-4). If our God is the “God of all comfort” and we are supposed to be His ambassadors to this world, then part of our job description as Christians is to be a comforting presence in society. It’s nice to do this with fellow Christians, but mainly we need to be doing this with fellow sufferers of this present evil age, most of whom are not Christians.
There are a lot of people out there who are suffering from collateral damage of this present evil age. Let’s partner with the Spirit and actively work to alleviate some of this suffering. Let’s think outside the box and be creative. If we can’t find Spirit-inspired creativity and invigoration for this task, what can we find it for? Are some people suffering from sin that they themselves have caused? Yes of course, but we are supposed to have compassion, regardless of merit, like Jesus who had compassion on whole crowds.