“16You will know them by their fruits…
18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will know them by their fruits.
21 ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” 23Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
-Matthew 7:16, 18-22
The other day an evangelical friend of mine confided in me that she believed we were living in end times. “There are wars and rumors of wars,” she said quoting from the gospel of Mark. Of course the writer of Mark was feeling the same way about the times he was living in 2000 years ago. The Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem temple in retaliation for a rebel uprising and thousands of people had been killed to teach them a lesson. “Surely these must be signs of the end of the age” I imagine the Evangelist was thinking.
The danger with believing that we are living in the “end times” however is that our fear often gets the best of us. Fear can drive us to say things we would not normally say and act in ways we would not normally act. Fear can make us afraid of whole groups of people, arguing for there to be ways to mark them (like the Nazis did in Germany with the star of David) or keep them from coming into our country altogether. Fear makes us want to build walls and keep people out. Fear encourages violence and violent behavior and fear is the fertile ground in which lies and those who tell them flourish and grow. Fear can make us not even care if they are lies as long as they make us feel less afraid.
Jesus warns of this in the Gospel of Matthew: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus later in the Gospel tells a parable about how to know if a person is one of his followers concluding the parable with the phrase: “Whatever you do to the least of my sisters of brothers you do to me.” (Matthew 25). You can’t get much clearer than that: love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness…all trump fear.
Paul too gives us a simple guide for sifting through the rhetoric:
“22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) It is pretty clear: we can know what and who is of God by the fruits of their actions.
We may be living in end times, but it does not matter, because whatever times we are living in as Christians we are called, not to act from our fear but to live as resurrection people. We are called to carry on Jesus’ vision of love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, justice and peace. We are called to be a light in broken world. We are called to walk humbly with God.
Here is a beautiful song by David Haas about how to live as resurrection.
Angela Maddalone is the pastor at Palisades Presbyterian Church in Palisades, NY.