There was a certain other-worldly quality to the Jesus Movement. That’s because everyone believed we were in the end times and the return of Christ was imminent. The widespread success of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth played a big role in that as did the now-iconic “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by Larry Norman — the latter being easily the theme song of the revolution written from an imaginary point of view that the return of Christ had already begun in the disappearance of believers from the earth. This meant two things for the message of the Jesus Movement: 1) the return of Christ was right around the corner, and 2) better get yourself right with God while you still can.
It’s important to note that this was not a ploy or a manipulation of facts to persuade people to look into Jesus; it was something we truly believed. I can remember feeling grateful that at least I was going to be spared some of the unpleasant responsibilities of adulthood. Then I met Marti and I bargained with Jesus to wait long enough for me to experience being married. That’s how much I believed it was going to happen and soon.
It’s a powerful one-two punch — the end of the world is coming; are you ready to meet your maker? It’s like the classic crazy guy walking around wearing a huge placard draped over his shoulders announcing the world is coming to an end, time to get right with God, except this wasn’t some nutty old guy holding a sign; we were intelligent young people warning everybody. We were convinced.
Times have changed, but maybe not so much. There is an increasing consciousness about the end of the world if only because it seems like the world can’t hold together much longer. Not as much prophesy as before, just a huge sense of instability. Things are getting so bad. And as far as the younger generations are concerned, they are already tuned into the end times. My 23-year-old son is so tuned into the unexpected that Jesus showing up would be just fine with him. Hardly out of the ordinary.
One of the highest things on anyone’s list in this life is certainty. Chandler, and most of his generation, is used to uncertainty. Their world changes by the minute. And for the end times, that’s not such a bad way to think. That’s something those of us who are older can learn from them — to expect the unexpected.
Too many of my generation are acting like satisfied and contented settlers refusing to face new frontiers; they want to stay put and watch the ship depart. Not a bad proposition until the tsunami rolls in. It’s coming, and it’s coming fast. It’s time to prepare and brace for impact.
But the message is still the same. Get right with God. Except that it isn’t a message of fear or of warning, or a call to fix yourself; it’s a message of grace and God’s loving acceptance of us due to Christ’s death the cross. We can get right with God, but only because He has gotten right with us through Christ. It is, in every way, the grace of a gospel of welcome, and a call to turn that grace outward to everyone, everywhere.