You may be familiar with biblical prophecy foreshadowing the end of time and the second coming of Christ. Or the idea of prophecy may, or may not, be fanciful, unusual, or intimidating to you. But there’s one prophecy—straight from the lips of Jesus, and easily understood—that piques my interest precisely because of its profound inclusion of the word “love.”
Take a moment to peruse Matthew 24:1-14. The disciples asked Jesus about what the end would look like, and He told them about wars, famine, earthquakes, persecution, the prevalence of false prophets—and then suddenly, abruptly, things got personal. Verses 9-12: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
Fascinating. Because of evil, many people will stop loving each other.
Could it be that we who live amid the stress and turmoil of these last days are handicapped in our ability to love? Are our abilities to identify with, bond with, relate to, and stay together a mere shadow of what they once were? Could it be that real love is just a fading ember, soon to be stamped out like a cigarette butt in the gutter?
At first blush this small window into interpersonal relationship before the end of time seems out of place. Yet logically Jesus offers the macrocosmic and microcosmic view, the big and the little picture. We who live in the last days witness, and may even be affected by, these huge geopolitical movements and disasters in which we have absolutely no control. Yet what follows is a sign and implied expectation that is totally within our control.
I am fascinated that these interpersonal dynamics are part of the apocalyptic schedule. But note this devolution started millennia ago, and keeps getting worse. Look, with me, at Revelation 2:3-5. “You don’t have as much love as you used to”: love for God or love for fellow human beings. This He said in response to the church in the first century after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. It wasn’t long before, as disciples passed away, arguments, competing teachings and interpretations, national strife, and personal irritations started to wear away at that first-love fervor. By the time of the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:15-17)—and symbolic of the church in the last days—God’s people have nothing left. Comfortable and advanced, we lack passion, insight, an appreciation for the Word, and a sense of fiery, passionate love for God, and by extension one another.
The signs of the times are knocking on your door. The love of many has grown cold. Now what are you going to do? It’s all too easy to become hardened by the cruelty and coldness of the world. Therein lies a great threat—that because iniquity abounds, the love of many will wax cold. As Harlem Children’s Zone president, Bronx-born Geoffrey Canada, details in his book Fist Stick Knife and Gun, our environment, and the people around us, can cause us to become hardened, and to respond out of self-preservation and self-protection. But in the words of the great twentiethcentury singer Sade:
In heaven’s name why do you play these games? Hang on to your love.
How do you do that?
Love: Let us hold fast to our love. Agape is love in response to the directive of Christ (Matthew 5:43, 44).
Let Justice Roll Down: But let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream. Justice is the way a society shows love (Amos 5:24).
Do Not Return Evil for Evil: Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
Use Kindness Toward Your Enemy: Romans 12:20 prescribes the opposite tack: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Pray for Your Enemies: Jesus sets a high bar in Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who . . . persecute you.” Go to bat for your enemy before the Lord, and see what He works out. We can do nothing about geopolitical strife, famine, and pestilence. And truly, waxing cold is not an option for those who would follow Jesus. He promises that if we can endure—that is, endure the hurt, harshness, and cruelty while remaining steadfast in Him and in His love—we will be saved (Matthew 24:13). Hang on to your love.