I admit that my mind struggles with the idea that love and humility can and even will eventually transform the world, engendering a sense of unity and brotherhood in human kind that allows the elimination of all our societal problems. Though Jesus obviously spoke so powerfully about love and made its practice His mission of earth, like so many others, I find it largely impossible to get past all the reasons why human history would apparently deny that love ever transforms anyone but a few, maybe.
Layered on top of these misgivings and frustrations I recognize that the story of Jesus introduces a period of transition into human history. Clearly the New Testament announces change; that is what makes it new. This includes change which was immediate and that which would extend prophetically into the future. The New Testament scriptures are a combination of that which is and that which is to come later.
The N.T. promise of transformation or newness as been historically interpreted as a way to satisfy God's demand for universal justice and thereby establish one's eternal destiny, largely through ritualistic adherence to the church. Under this paradigm, what changes is our relationship with God, first and foremost. This understanding has focused our attention on right religious practice. Transformation of the world at large, along with that of our relationship with other people, is a recognized goal under this paradigm, but that ultimate change comes about through a lengthy period of conflict between God and the church, on the one hand, and the rest of humanity, on the other. At some future point, in the fulfillment of Bible prophesy, God/Christ intervenes cataclysmically to destroy all those who resist the promised change. Then depending on one's theology, a utopian earth results and/or those who have been transformed experience the promise of peace and joy in the hereafter realm of Heaven.
If you force yourself to seriously consider that what Jesus taught actually is the solution to our problems as a human family, then a different scenario of intended change immerges in the imagination. One might then consider that the promise of newness and transformation entails a complete reversal of human assumptions, beliefs, and motivation. It becomes a renewing of the mind in a very real sense. Instead of insisting that the restraint on human behavior has to be rules and their enforcement (by other morally superior humans), perhaps each individuals personal commitment to right behavior will ultimately prevail. Maybe the age of transition to the newness in Christ extends until mankind is forced by life circumstances to consider something dramatically different.
Certainly mankind has progressed technologically to a point where we collectively face an existential crisis. Our ability to mutually destroy ourselves has been a reality for 50 plus years, and that capability becomes more widespread each year. We can fool ourselves into believing that concepts like Mutually Assured Destruction maintained our safety and viability in the past and that a Non-Proliferation Treaty will assure that into the future, but realistically we are inexorably headed to a very bad place in terms of continuing to manage and mitigate the consequences of human conflict. This reality will ultimately force us to search for a radically new paradigm in human relationships.
Some will argue that technology will negate the threats imposed by current weapons and thus save us, but the flip side to that thinking is that advancing technology is a back and forth exercise between defensive and offensive capabilities. New defenses foster new offensive means. The situation just gets worse and worse under this scenario. The same can be postulated in regards to the future of natural resource consumption. At the very least, those resources are limited by the physical volume of the earth, so they are not inherently inexhaustible, regardless of technological advancement..
For a hundred years now, since the advent of Einstein's theoretical work and the subsequent explosion in science and technology, the world has lived under an unsustainable situation. As a human race we have chosen to ignore two realities. The capability to kill everyone else and ourselves at the same time using the available technologies of warfare cannot exist forever in conjunction with a human mindset which insists on conflict as a necessity of life and a given in human relationships. Additionally, these same technological advances have dramatically extended the human lifespan and our ability and need to expend natural resources to the point where the limitations on those resources is itself a limit on life as we have known it and human relations as we have engaged them.
My conclusion from all this postulating is that the world has been in a long state of transition to God directed newness, especially since Christ. That transition is destined to reach a climax within human history and the present age appears to be ripe for that event. In that sense I feel a certain kinship with the many prophetic interpreters we hear who constantly predict an imminent divine conclusion to history. The fulfillment I conceive, however, does not involve divine retribution and destruction. Instead it involves divine restoration and renewal, both within human history.
No one is likely to deny that humanity is involved in ever increasing change. Often this change is greeted with outspoken resistance and consternation. "In the future our standard of living will fall. The kids today don't share the old values and virtues. Those in government have forsaken the guiding principles of our forefathers and embraced progressive thinking." A large number of voices rail against the changes we all experience but cannot seem to avoid. These voices try to pull us back into the past but to no avail. A new generation arises and with it a new acceptance of what was previously rejected. That has been the constant course of human history. I see no reason to expect anything different as future generations come and go. In fact, I think that is the divine intent. The death of the old provides room for the new and more fulfilled.
Yes, any commitment to Jesus' teachings is hard to imagine. It is just so against all human logic, but maybe that is the reason it took a divine messenger to teach it. We have continued to rely on human logic and the conclusion that improvement in human existence requires constant struggle against others and coercive actions. If lasting peace and real joy ever resulted from human conflict, I fail to see it. Maybe Jesus saw another way and planted the seed for true ultimate transformation. I certainly hope so, trusting that His earthly mission has not been in vain because it corresponds with God's own sovereign Will.