Each month, you’ll hear from one of us on what we’re reading and a little bit about the book. This month we’re sharing book notes on World on Fire. Enjoy!
Recently, I’ve had several conversations about the state of the world. I’m going to guess the same is true of you.
Politics, pandemics, natural disasters, war, hatred. You may be like me, having conversations with others about things you’re seeing on social media or the news. Or you may try to shield yourself from as much of the news and current events as possible. Either way, it’s easy to see we live in a broken world. A World on Fire.
In this multiple-author volume, each of the writers looks at a Beatitude from Matthew 5 and how we can apply that Beatitude to our current world, one that often feels so rife with sin that it feels like it’s on fire.
What does it mean in a world of Twitter and Instagram to be meek, poor in spirit, peacemakers, humble, persecuted? What does it look like in a world of so much grief to mourn and, in a world where others tell you to put yourself first, to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
I love this quote from Hannah Anderson from the introductory chapter: “But the truth is that we aren’t hopeless or helpless. We may not be able to change what’s happening around us, but we can change who we are in the midst of it.”
That’s what this book seeks to do: help you change into Christlikeness. Each of the chapters points directly to Scripture, showing how we can live like Jesus teaches, even in the midst of ::waves arms wildly:: all of this. Each chapter also features several questions meant for journaling and/or discussion among friends so that readers can apply the Scripture to their current situation.
Especially poignant to me was the chapter on Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Elizabeth Woodson writes, “When politics or racism or sexuality or abortion or any other ‘fire starting’ issue comes up in conversation, Christians should not have our boxing gloves up, standing ready to fight. Rather, we should have the posture of one who stands ready to mourn, wherever there is evidence of sin or suffering.” How often do I take on a posture of anger or a posture of apathy instead of a mourner?
By following the Beatitudes, even in a day that is removed by time and place from the original audience of the Sermon on the Mount, we can do kingdom work. As Christians, that is what we are called to do. As Jada Edwards writes, “we have all chosen a path that directs us toward love even when we are in pain (John 15:13). A path that directs us to silence if we lack self-control (1 Cor. 9:27).”
One clear thread running through the chapters and the Beatitudes is that to live kingdom-focused lives in a world on fire, we must be a people who love our neighbors—no matter who they are. Rebecca McLaughlin says, “Loving people the world perceives to be at the bottom of the pile is what citizens of Jesus’ kingdom do.”
If you’re like me, loving your neighbors is a hard task any time, but especially when the world is on fire. We’re tired. We’re afraid. We’re anxious, confused, and angry. In the chapter on Matthew 5:7 (“Blessed are the merciful . . .), Ashley Marivittori Gorman provides this help: “If we hit a season where we’re especially quick to snap at others, harsh in spirit toward those we don’t agree with, or naturally defensive, we must consider this an indicator that either we haven’t beheld the God of Mercy in the Scriptures, or we haven’t taken him up on that mercy in a long time.”
I think we can all agree we’re living in times of darkness. We see the turmoil on the news every day. We talk about it with our friends. We read about it on social media. Our calling as disciples of Christ is to live like citizens of a different kingdom. Our calling is to be a light in the darkness, a city on a hill when the world is on fire.
Elizabeth Hyndman reads, writes, and tweets. Officially, she’s a social media strategist at Lifeway. Elizabeth grew up in Nashville, sips chai lattes every chance she can get, and believes everyone should have a “funny picture” pose at the ready.