Maybe I grew up really sheltered and naive, but I don’t remember the sheer amount of anger and negativity in the world that seems to be normal today. It’s certainly possible that our society has long been filled with anger, pride, arrogance, heartlessness, and copious unholiness, but our tendency to smile and “say the right thing” masked it. Social media has, however, shattered this mask and opened a Pandora’s box of negativity and unholiness. Behaviors that were once virtually unheard of have become incredibly normalized. What are we, as Christ followers, supposed to do amidst all of this? Do we simply accept the new normal? Fortunately, we don’t have to just guess. The Apostle Paul directly addresses this challenge in II Timothy 3:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. II Timothy 3:1-5
There are some really important things for us to understand from this passage. First, the list of sins here represents things that the world around us promotes, but that we as Christians should reject. Paul may have been writing 2,000 years ago, but his words remain 100% relevant today. Everything he lists continues to be things society attempts to pass off as “normal,” or at least something we should accept as ok for others. Yet, as Christ followers, we are called in a totally different direction.
Why? Because God has a better plan. Think about it. In the end, how many of these things really bring about anything good? Sure, they bring some moments of happiness, but it is always fleeting. The problem with everything on this list is that they are self-centered and not God-centered. Read the passage again. At the root of each attribute is a focus on oneself and not a focus on the love, power, and grace of God. When we stop focusing on God, and start focusing on ourselves, we stray from the prefered path God has created for us, venturing into some incredibly dangerous weeds.
So, Paul tells us to follow God and not to fall into the traps listed here. The second important thing he teaches here is that we need to avoid people who personify these attitudes. We need to surround ourselves with other Christ-followers who will help us follow God’s way. Now look, I get that in reality we all will always have people in our lives embodying these negative attributes. We can’t simply cut them all out. However, we can choose not to follow them into the weeds of normalcy. We can choose to not give into the temptation to be self-absorbed, but instead be Christ-centered. Is this easy? Not in the slightest! Is this God’s prefered plan for us? Absolutely!