Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 03, 2019
Matthew 24:12 A Society’s Slow Freeze: Explanations for our Collapsing World
12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Mat 24:12-13)
Great changes are sweeping over our society, bringing fears and shock. I hear people say, “How can anyone do that?” “Why would they do such a thing?” These tragic incidents differ from those in the past due to the willingness of a few to kill ‘innocent people,’ including women and children, themselves, and the goal to kill as many as possible.
So what is happening? Is there a way to get a handle on the reasons for this rapid increase of violence?
Jesus shed much light on the conditions shaping these events in Matthew 24:12, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Jesus uses the word “because” to make some important connections that give us a sure footing on understanding what is happening about us.
Lawlessness is that general willingness to ignore the commonly adopted rules from society, including both government-instituted laws as well as those embedded as norms into a culture. This would include expectations of purity and hidden social rules when getting married.
Perhaps, we should first ask has lawlessness increased? Certainly, it has! Looking only at these mean-spirited, vicious acts done by the hands of terrorists portray the nth degree of lawlessness, that is, the willingness to live contrary to what social norm and law demand. Suicide, abortion, and divorce are further marks of reckless abandonment of the rules of society. In the arena of sexuality, the term ‘sexual immorality’ has been abrogated to create a new sexual norm—anything goes. “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth” (Psalm 52:3). Lawlessness has definitely increased.
Although some might consider one’s sexual norms as one’s own choice, we should remember that norms have been protected by laws and cultures over many generations to shield from harm. Much pain and horror originate from every act of infidelity, sexual abuse, and willingness to pursue one’s own choice over the respect of others. Yes, some cultural laws embed pain and trouble, but typically they protect people.
A Love Grown Cold
Jesus connected the increase of lawlessness with ‘cold love, “Most people’s love will grow cold.” While lawlessness is largely seen on the outward (and I welcome a good study on the statistics of lawlessness), Jesus says the general attitude towards law is connected to a culture’s warmth and trust.
“People’s love” could refer to a love for God or others or probably both. Without respect for those around us, including God, there is a pullback of our trust, and a willingness to hide and protect ourselves and our interests. Part of this isolation results from the onslaught of technological devices, but there is much more going on, and it is sourced in the willingness to distance oneself from others.
Along with the lawlessness has been an increase of hatred. Our society used to prize honesty and politeness but now seems to reward rude and swear words, tolerating them without any negative consequence.
But this lack of love can be seen in the willingness to bruise, hurt, shout at, and otherwise mistreat others such as on tweets and blog comments. As a society, we are willing to view violent and public sexual acts as acceptable. Coldness and anger are common in marriages leading to betrayal and adultery even though it causes children to suffer from such spiteful and unforgiving attitudes. On and on it goes, the next generation bears the soul scars of loneliness and selfishness, robbing them of precious relationships. Drugs and immorality speed up this cold and deadening process leading people to their graves.
Getting the Big Connection
Let’s restate Jesus’ keen insight: lawlessness breeds a lessening of love. Jesus is speaking of “deculturalizaton,” the process where the heart of a culture, filled with trust, expectations, love, and norms is replaced with a place where people abandon laws and live only with respect for their own desires. Jesus, no doubt observed this downward cycle of society in His time, a culture begging for renewal or judgment.
The next generation bears the soul scars of loneliness and selfishness, robbing them of precious relationships.
Lawlessness increases when light and justice is shunned, creating a climate of toleration of evil. Some hidden figures seem determined to guide our society into the paths of darkness by applauding and implanting evil values, much like in Isaiah’s time. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Any swerve from justice brings about coldness in relationships.
So what brings about such a decline in society? It is the willingness to leave God out of the picture. When stepping away from His light and justice, we only can murk about in the remaining darkness. When we leave His paths of love, we end up hurting those closest to us. Thus, light is step by step, replaced with darkness. I am not stating that law brings salvation, but it does preserve respect, sanity, and decency, all of which are quickly vacating our society today.
The increase of evil only occurs due to the absence of light. The darkness of a soul, perhaps inflamed by drugs and the violent talk of others, spurs people into the madness of not only willing to kill themselves but even others. The evil one, Satan the Murderer (John 8:44), delights in advancing these harmful incidents.
Rules of Politeness
Let me close with an example of how rules are connected to love. Rules of politeness protect relationships. People refrain from rude speech and behavior when general politeness rules are being observed. Polite rules (think laws) supersede the expression of one’s feelings or rash desires, perhaps only due to not feeling accepted. And so, relationships are somewhat protected from impetuous and harmful statements that would otherwise extend their poisonous touch. Lawlessness, the willingness to break with the commonly accepted protocol, then, even on the individual level brings exasperating pain.
Rules of politeness are not rooted in agape love, which is built upon the love of God, but phileo love, a love of mutual respect. With lawlessness, however, society drops below this level of mutual love by allowing rude words, lying, murder, and general disrespect. When lawlessness becomes common, society’s key measuring mark of respect drops below acceptable levels where people are stung. Someone has rightly observed that when the fair treatment of individuals is no longer respected, people insist on harsh laws and even tolerate military interference. They will give up freedoms, so they can gain some semblance of peace and society.
I am not sure our American culture has stepped into lawlessness with both feet, though admittedly, the media makes us feel that way. So do the tragic actions which pulverize laws of respect. We have a brief window for us, as a culture, to reject evil and affirm law and order, along with the commitment to the common good.
Making an Ultimate Choice
If we continue to foster lawlessness by turning good into evil, then the root of our culture will fade into oblivion, creating a debased culture of disrespect and evil. Secularism lacks the moral base to establish laws that would maintain order. Certain evil groups and individuals creep in to take advantage of loopholes to impair and manipulate the whole society for their dark purposes. Our hope is for us as a people to humbly repent before God regarding the evil occurring around us and cry out for mercy and repentance from God.
No society can leave morality without creating a mess and stepping into it. This is true financially, socially, and relationally. Lawlessness acknowledges a society where people tolerate evil, full with its lies and devastating consequences. Divorces are not moving ahead, but backward, for where there is lawlessness (divorce cannot be anything but lawlessness with its breaking of one’s oath), love’s glory is diminished leaving only shadows of darkness to hide in.
While Jesus spoke of the world as a whole, He also gave believers hope as individuals as we hold onto our own faith and values. “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mat 24:13). Some will hold onto their principles and affection. Although with the increased decadence about us, Jesus does not say everyone’s love will grow cold but only “most.” Be determined to be one of them!
Key Words: cold, loneliness, society, culture, Matthew 24:12, evil
Other BFF articles:
Understanding Tragedies | Answers for Tragedy | Finding Peace in Tragic Times | Explanation and Warning of Judgment | Mass murders | Big Learning Curve
Discussion Questions for A Society’s Slow Freeze
- How do you define lawlessness?
- Give some instances of lawlessness that you are familiar with.
- The author connects a society’s norms with its laws. Does this connection make sense, especially when thinking of lawlessness?
- What decline of accepted rules have you observed with marriage?
- What important connection does Jesus make with lawlessness?
- How would you describe love growing cold? What happens?
- Have you personally felt your love for someone grow cold? Explain.
- How are laws connected to love?
- Explain how rules of politeness protect love and relationship.
- Where is our society now? Is it too late or is there a chance for return? Explain.