Has the End of the World Come Upon Us? (Part 7)

TEXT: 2 Timothy 3:1-9

In recent days, following the deadly terror attack at the office of a newspaper in Paris this past week, world leaders have once again sounded the alarm over the threat that radical Islam poses to Western civilization. This is not the first time that we have heard words of warning which tell us that this extremism seeks to destroy the way of life of those nations which hold to the principles of freedom, democracy, and liberty. Yet, we must be reminded, that it is not only forces from outside which can destroy a nation, but forces from inside which can destroy it as well.

Perhaps the greatest empire the world has ever known — the Roman Empire — met its demise not only at the hands of the barbarian tribes of Europe, but even more so by its own moral decline and descent into debauchery. Historians tell us that this decline in morals was evident even among the rich, the upper class, the emperors, and the politicians of Roman society. Promiscuous sexual behaviour was rampant. It is said that emperors such as Tiberius engaged in homosexuality; Nero had an incestuous relationship with a servant; Marcus Aurelius forced a woman who had taken a vow of chastity into marriage; and Commodus not only had a harem of concubines, but he enraged the Roman populace by sitting in the theatre dressed as a women. This decline in morals at the highest levels of society predictably affected the general population. Not only was sexual promiscuity rampant, but there was widespread gambling and drunkenness. And, of course, there were the bloodthirsty crowds always ready to be amused by gladiatorial combat in the Coliseum; and or the killing of Christians. Now don’t be shocked at the Romans, for the rich and powerful of today are at least being accused of doing the same things. Do these names ring a bell… Prince Andrew, President Bill Clinton, power lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and media mogul and America’s former father Bill Cosby, just to name a few.

In these dark days, we must consider whether the greatest threat to free and democratic nations is not simply Islamic extremism, but moral and spiritual decline from within. U.S. Ambassador Henry Grunwald said, “For freedom to be workable as a political system, there has to be strong inner controls; there has to be a powerful moral compass and sense of values.” As we study Scripture in light of what we see happening in our society today, we cannot help but think that our society is losing its moral compass and its sense of values. And, what we have been studying in Second Timothy over the past few weeks attests to that.

We have been looking at some of the specific signs which the Bible says will become increasingly evident in the behavior and lifestyle of men during the end times. We talked about those who are so proud they are “unthankful” to God for the life He has given them as well as those who lead “unholy” lifestyles.

Today, we are going to turn our attention to the phrase “without natural affection.” As you know, the Greeks had four different words to describe the four types of love. There was eros — erotic or romantic love or lust; phileo — the love one has for their friends; storge — the love one has for their family members; and agape — the selfless, sacrificial love. The Greek word used for “without natural affection” or “without natural love” is astorgos. The prefix “a” meaning without and “storgos” meaning natural love or affection.

Paul is saying that people will not even have natural, normal love for their own family members in the last days.

Many people have decried the reportedly 50% divorce rate in our society. Many people have decried the epidemic of fatherlessness in our society. If you’ve paid attention to the news over the past few years, it seems as if there has been an increase in the number of mothers who are trying to kill their children. Our justice system will tell us that they are mentally ill. The Bible says they do not have natural affection. But not only them: fathers who abandon their responsibilities do not have natural affection for their children either. Husbands and wives who divorce do not have natural affection for each other or for their children. Some young people don’t like the family they were born into; they don’t have natural affection. People don’t have natural affection, and we wonder why we have a crisis of family breakdown in our society.

Let’s take a closer look at the word “astorgos.” Scholars tell us that the word was also used to mean cold or heartless. It was used by the Greeks to describe a woman who committed adultery with multiple men because she was said to be incapable of loving one man as her husband. The word was also used to describe some species of animals who abandoned their young. We would use this word astorgos to refer to a man who is a cold-blooded killer — who can kill someone while they’re saying the Lord’s Prayer and have no remorse.

William Barclay notes that the age of the Roman Empire was “an age in which family love was dying. Never was the life of the child so precarious as at this time. Children were considered a misfortune. When a child was born, it was taken and laid at the father’s feet. If the father lifted it up that meant that he acknowledged it. If he turned away and left it, the child was literally thrown out. There was never a night when there were not thirty or forty abandoned children left in the Roman forum. Even Seneca, great soul as he was, could write: ‘We kill a mad dog; we slaughter a fierce ox; we plunge the knife into sickly cattle lest they taint the herb; children who are born weakly and deformed we drown.’ The natural bonds of human affection had been destroyed.”

The lack of natural love is what leads to abortion, parents abandoning their children, domestic violence, and estranged husbands and wives using their children to manipulate each other. This lack of natural affection is also what leads to suicide — people don’t even have a normal, healthy love of self.

What can we do in a day and time when the family bond has weakened as it has? Christian families are not immune to the epidemic of natural affection growing cold. Those who are in the church seem to have just as many family problems as those in the world. Well, we as Christians, have something at our disposal that the world does not have. We have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us to guide us and direct us.

The Holy Spirit helps us do that which we cannot do on our own. When a lack of natural affection begins creeping into our hearts toward our spouse or toward our children or toward our parents, we can rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to help us choose to love our family members with God’s agape love. Remember, agape love is the selfless, sacrificial love unconditional. It is the kind of love that says, ‘This may not be what I want, but I choose to do it because it is the right thing to do for the sake of my family.’ When storge (family) love fails, you can always rely on agape love to pull you through

It was agape love that caused God to send Jesus to earth in the form of a man. It was agape love that caused Jesus to go to the cross despite the fact that He did not deserve to die and we did not deserve to live. Because God and Jesus showed agape love for us, we ought to show agape love to our family members and to others whom we come in contact with each day.

Even as the love of many grows cold in these perilous times, our love ought to grow hotter and hotter, not because of who we are or because of our feelings, but because of what God has done for us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s