Is our modern world a wonderful place that’s getting better – or a terrible place that’s getting worse?

It’s popular among Christians to believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket. We imagine an idyllic past when everyone shared our morals; when indecency was confined to the shadows; when violence was rare and kindness was common.

We look at the moral decay in our modern world and wonder if things have ever been this bad.

Oh yes. In fact, they’ve been much, much worse. Recently, in fact.

We may be losing the battle for personal morality. But we are winning when it comes to solving some of the globe’s most intractable problems. For example:

War. Thanks to 24-hour cable news, images of war invade our homes by the thousands. Therefore, we assume the world has never been more war-torn.

In reality, the world has never been more peaceful. Planet earth has always been a violent place. The tranquil, eco-paradise of the Avatar movies is a myth. We are living in the golden age of peace.

Violent crime. The average American child witnesses 200,000 acts of violence and 16,000 murders on TV by the time he or she reaches adulthood. TV news lives by the mantra, “If it bleeds – it leads.” Violence and gore sell. So naturally we tend to think that crime has never been worse.

In reality, violent crime rates in the United States are near 50-year lows – despite the recession. Most neighborhoods are safer than they’ve ever been.

Disease. We all know someone who’s contracted a deadly disease. The news media reports the maladies that befall celebrities in great detail. Therefore, we assume that people are sicker than ever.

But the truth is, we’ve never been healthier. The most dreaded infectious diseases of old have largely been conquered: plague, polio, tuberculosis, whooping cough, smallpox, leprosy, and many others are virtually unknown in the West today. As a result, life expectancy has nearly doubled in America over the past two centuries.

Poverty. In church we see a lot of pictures of very poor people – as we’re admonished to give. This is a good thing – Christians should constantly be reminded to help the less fortunate. But is poverty getting better or worse?

Better – by a mile. In 1981, over half the world’s population lived in poverty. Today the number stands at 22%. That’s an astonishing improvement that occurred in the blink of an eye. More people possess more wealth than at any other time in human history.

Hunger. A recent report from the World Health Organization says obesity – not hunger – is the world’s greatest public health challenge. Hunger is still a big problem in our world, but nothing like it once was. Starvation was once commonplace in our world; today it’s relatively rare. And it’s virtually unknown in the developed world. When is the last time you heard of an American dying of hunger?

I don’t mean to minimize the impact of suffering, but we can get so caught up in what’s wrong with the world we forget to give thanks to God for what’s right. That’s one of my New Year’s resolutions: to be more thankful for the blessings we’ve all been given.

And it’s important to realize that Christians have been at the center of many of these global victories. Christians have done more to heal the sick, feed the poor and teach the illiterate than any other faith group. The Bible’s call to live set apart is not just about your personal holiness – it’s about advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. When you walk with Jesus you elevate the world around you.

Happy New Year from Church for Men. I’d welcome your comments below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

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