There is a direct correlation between lawlessness and the loss of love. In speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus made the point: “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).
Paul warns about times of difficulty in which people will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:2-5)
Look inside the wound. We are living in such times as these. The increase of lawlessness is apparent, and I don’t just mean from crowds and unrest. I include in this those who are in positions of power who abuse their position for their own personal gratification, glory, and treacherous ends. This can be politicians, presidents, senators, and governors. It can be police officers, preachers, teachers, counselors, coaches, and doctors. It can even be parents and those we thought were friends. Manipulation, underhanded dealings, cheating, and other abuses seek to take advantage of others for personal gratification and positioning. We want to lord it over others, if for nothing because we can. “My” position and power is more important than your needs and comforts. If oppressing you gets me the power I want, there are no moral lines.
We may abuse the law and order to achieve our own desires. We think that if a rule seems silly to us, we have the right and freedom to break it because we are above it. In many cases, people have “the appearance of godliness,” but they deny the power of God; and when God’s power is denied, people will seek to seize power at any cost — and the cost is love, mercy, justice, and above all, people. Human dignity, inherent to all because we are made in God’s image, has been tossed aside so that we act like brute beasts, gnarling, biting, and devouring. We are consumed. We have become the children of those to whom the prophets prophesied:
“Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.” (Micah 2:1-2)
Love has grown cold. People are abusive, ungrateful, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, and brutal. This is what we have become. This is where our greed and selfishness have led us. This is what pride and putting ourselves above others has done. Even in conversations that are supposed to be loving and brotherly, we often see insults, undercutting, and reckless talk. We’ve all seen it. We’ve participated. Brotherly love is a nice ideal, but sometimes it seems it’s not for “us.” Has our wound become incurable (cf. Micah 1:9)?
The wound need not be incurable, but we need to remember that our time is limited. We need to know the wound is there before we can seek the healing, but the healing is certainly available. It is called the gospel, and our Lord stands ready as the Great Physician to apply the balm of Gilead.
There must a deep-seated sense of remorse, repentance, and resolve. We must see people as God’s image-bearers. We must seek to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We must seek peace and pray so that all may come to the knowledge of truth and be saved (1 Tim 2:1-4). We must break down the walls of division—walls we have erected that separate races, classes, or other artificial barriers of outward appearance that we think makes one superior to another. Instead, we must cultivate the mind of Christ, doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4) Treating others with love, as we would want to be treated (Matt 7:12) is not just a pretty platitude. There will be no salvation without it.
Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, liberty for the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). He came to provide rest for the weary (Matt 11:28-30). We are tired of sin. Tired of the ugliness of selfishness. Tired of all that the world offers and does. The gospel is here, and it makes all the difference in the world.
Then let us hear Paul’s admonition: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal 5:13-15)
Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (cf. Luke 18:8)