Welcome to the Age of Rapid Disruption
Have you ever wondered how some things in prophecy could possibly be fulfilled? What chain of events would be required to take us from where we are now to where we are prophesied to be? Take some of the scenes painted in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, for instance. Taken together they paint a picture of a world embroiled in conflict, with state against state and people-groups (Jews and Arabs, Hutus and Tutsis) against people-groups, and with rampant hunger and disease (Matthew 24:6-8). These chapters also lead us to simultaneously expect significant disasters such as earthquakes (Matthew 24:7) and upset in the natural world and a state of agitation and bewilderment nearing panic among people (Luke 21:25&26). What course of events would be required to transition from the world the way it is to the world as described?
Adding in some prophecies in Revelation, the question becomes even more pointed. What would be required to shift the world from a relatively stable and predictable state to one where such things would not only happen, but would happen by popular demand?
The truth, though, is that the world is no longer relatively stable nor predictable. History moves in fits and starts, with a stable world giving way to rapid and dramatic change – periods of rapid disruption. Take, for instance, the rapid shift between the dark ages and the renaissance. Or, looking at the same period through a different lens, look at the discovery of the Americas, with the prolonged period of expansion, power shifts and realignments that followed.
Looking at global events today, it very much feels like we have shifted into a new age, an age of rapid disruption. If we have, it’s an age where historical taboos are easily broken, where things that would recently have shocked consciences are now accepted with a shrug. It seems we’ve entered an age where people’s hearts have grown colder to the plight of others, and where selfishness is the metric unabashedly applied to both transactions and human interactions. Taken altogether, it seems we’ve entered an age where winds are blowing that were previously held back.
In such an age, dramatic and shocking change can take place very rapidly. Alliances weaken or become realigned. The outbreak of conflict becomes almost routine. Suffering and desperate masses who try to escape conflict, violent crime, or the ravishments of drought and desertification are vilified. Around the world, income inequality is not only at a shocking level and growing, but as the “haves” gather ever more and the “have-nots” suffer ever more, the sympathies of most seem to be with the “haves”. The admiration of those who use every lever to grasp more and more is antithetical to the life and character of Christ, and yet in this age the Christian world is mostly mute, mostly complicit in the treading down of the poor and desperate.
In this new age, rapid and dramatic change is possible. But that is a good thing if we let the rapid and dramatic change be within us, and be for the good. Recognizing this new age for what it is, Christians face a choice: embrace this age and unreservedly model the character of Satan, or reject this age and unreservedly model the character of Christ, showing love, mercy and compassion as He did. There is, I suppose, a third choice: doing nothing and keeping our heads down. But really, this positioning of ourselves between hot and cold is no different in its final effect than embracing the world; it is merely a more cowardly route to the same end.
As Christians, we are here to show the world the character of Christ, to witness that there is a model other than selfishness, to demonstrate that lovingkindness is its own reward. If we do not do this, how will people know? If we do not at the same time proclaim Christ, how will people hear?
We’ve entered a new and unstable age. Let us redouble our determination to grasp onto and live out the character of Christ.