Caught in the Storm of Society

If you turn on the TV or pick up a magazine or drive down the street, you and I are inundated by advertising. We live in a sea of advertising, it is almost everywhere our eyes look. As kind and as good as some companies would like to portray themselves, the first and foremost reason to advertise is to sell or market themselves. Advertisements are designed to get your attention on what they are selling and to get you to consider buying it. Their goal is to make you not just want what they are selling but that you, in fact, feel like you need it. All advertisements do this from laundry soap and toothpaste to luxury cars and 3d-plasma screens. It is almost a full time job just keeping up with and aware of all this consumer propaganda. With all the advertisements around us, it is almost exhausting to sort out what is really important, what is really honest, what is necessary, and what is actually of true benefit for us, from all the other worthless drivel. I mean, take the local paper as an example, and I have nothing against the Independent and the local news and information it provides, but do you think you could find in this weekend’s paper one advertisement for a company or product that might actually make us better people without its seller having it’s own profit driven ulterior motive? Of course not. So if we are surrounded then by such a pervasive cloud of advertising finely crafted to persuade and shape our desires, do you think we make it through a day without being persuaded or shaped? Is it even possible to imagine we could make it through a single day without being shaped by advertisements in our consumer culture when they make their push at every conceivable place and opportunity? Seriously, as Christian’s for whom God’s will and desire and to whom following Jesus is most important, we need to be very aware of how our thoughts, wants and desires are being shaped by whom and for what purpose.

I would argue that for you and I living in an urban setting that we are as impacted by advertising as we are by the weather and the seasons. We know what time of year it is by what “they” are selling on the TV, the radio, the billboards, or the flyers.

Jesus says in Luke 12, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” Jesus in this passage is comparing the ease with which the people who gather around him to hear him teach have learned to read the signs in the weather to know when dangerous weather is coming, but who choose, which is why he calls the hypocrites, to remain ignorant to the “weather” of the culture and society around them and the harmful things that can happen if they let themselves get caught up in it. One of the main themes of this whole chapter from Luke’s gospel has been to encourage us, as followers of Jesus, to be prepared for the coming of the kingdom by warning us to not be driven by the superficial goals of the materialistic world and culture around us.

In our day, with the recent economic troubles of the world, does anyone really need to paint a picture of the cultural and societal pressures of our consumer and profit driven world on individuals. We are all well aware of the dangers can befall so many in its’ storm. For me one of the things that became clear when the economy stumbled and everyone’s financial savings and jobs were affected, was the contrast of those consumer market things to the things in our life that were left mostly untouched by these material matters. The things most untouched were our closest and most important relationships. Not that they didn’t feel some stress, but these relationships with others, like our family or close friends, and even more fundamentally our relationship with God were like a safe harbour from the storm. God didn’t change. Our spouse, family, and our good friends were still there to listen and support us, to laugh with us or to cry with us. Yes, all our relationships were and are impacted, even our relationship with God, but the deeper and the stronger we have built those relationships, the least impacted they were. They are like the foundation of a house built on rock. These relationships are where we will always find our peace.

Now wait a minute preacher, you are saying that it is in our relationship with God and our closest relationships, be they family or friend, that we will find peace. But doesn’t Jesus say in Luke 12 something about peace? Yes he does and in fact Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”

Yes, that is what Jesus said.

But there are two types of peace. The peace the world gives and the peace God gives and they are two different creatures. Jesus in this passage is acknowledging that the peace he proclaims and brings is not of this world and its the narrow political definition of Peace, but a spiritual peace that will, in fact, challenge the world, and cause conflict and even division.

The peace Jesus proclaims brings division to the world because its’ values run against the power and profit structures of our earthly structures. Caring for the poor and those in need has no profit. Living humbly and always sharing ones abundance will get no one to the top of the corporate ladder. Jesus asks his followers to put spiritual values ahead of societal and cultural values, and even in his day he knew that doing that would cause conflict and division.

The message that these passages have for us today is that being a follower of Jesus means be attentive to our culture and surroundings. It means being wise to the signs and our cultures attempts to shape our needs and wants.

Jesus is calling Christians to be smarter and more aware of the pressures that are at work around us. We are here today and that even in a small way proves that we haven’t fallen fully to the sway of the world, but that our ears and eyes are still open to the way of God. Stay close to God’s word and try to follow God’s voice in your heart and in your actions everyday. As Jesus says, in this same chapter, “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)