If I were to believe social media or popular culture, 2016 is a year to wipe from our collective memory.
Celebrity deaths. Politics. Terrorism. Civil wars. Cyberattacks. And so much more. It has spawned all sorts of viral memes and metaphors from the silly to the dead serious. But in the echo chamber that has become popular culture, I have noticed one thing that is distinctly missing.
The popular culture that pervades social media and society is distinctly humanist. It disguises itself as the “new”, “liberated” and “evolved”. Yet lacks the self-reflection to see that it is the oldest of human perspectives. It states that we, as men and women, are the pinnacle of existence and nothing greater lies outside of ourselves. But what begins with man, must also end with man, and so the meaning and purpose of our popular culture ends at death.
But as Christians, we are called to look beyond. Beyond ourselves, to something, to Someone who pulls us out of our own limited perspective into a broader story, as the Apostle John wrote:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2, ESV)
And so we are.
What beautiful words to encapsulate the hope that we have as Christians. That sentiment is echoed repeatedly by the apostles, whether John, Paul, Peter or others, to look beyond our circumstances and to the hope that we have in Christ.
That is why, when we are faced with the realities of this world - death, pain, loss, or injustice - we as Christians should fix our eyes on the point beyond the horizon where our true Hope rests.
It is a lesson I had reinforced when learning to paddle a canoe years ago. Besides feeling just a quick movement away from tipping, I got started by fixing my focus on the waves just beyond the bow of the canoe as I paddled from the stern. My nervous focus on what was in front of me left me to get tossed around by waves and zig-zag my way across a lake. But when, over time, I learned to look up and fix my eyes on my destination on the other side of the lake, my paddling became more steady and my path became increasingly straight and true towards that goal.
If all we have is that which we can see in front of us, we are, as popular culture, without hope. But we are called to something much greater, much bigger, and so much more fulfilling- a life lived as children of God, forever, with Him.
And so whether you’re finding yourself struggling right now after a difficult 2016, or wrapped up in excitement and joy from the year, the question is the same- are you looking beyond? Looking beyond your current circumstances, and broadening your perspective.
As we take that step into the new year, may your Hope be found in Him and what lies beyond our sight for those who love Him.