By Dick Brogden
There is an old chorus that says:
Oh, my precious brother
When the world’s on fire
You need my Jesus
To be your Savior…
I sang this today while sitting in the Eden green of Malewa, Kenya. Malewa is a little haven on the Malu River outside Naivasha, nestled in forest and fauna. It’s a little paradise on earth, not unlike the shire in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Quaint houses are surrounded by acacia trees and indigenous foliage, friendly neighbors, peace, calm, and the imperturbable equatorial weather—never too hot, never too cold. Jennifer and I are here for a few weeks of writing and resting.
Sitting in my shire, I cannot escape the thought of a world on fire. In these last days, there are more lost than ever rushing towards hell. There are 3.15 billion in over 7,000 unreached people groups without an adequate witness of the heavenly shire. This little earthly haven has been hit by tragedy, sickness, sin, and death before—and it will be again, for it only represents our heavenly home, which is, as C. S. Lewis puts it in “The Last Battle,” “still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below…the new [Narnia] was a deeper country; every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.” As beautiful as this lower shire is, it is just a copy of the shire above.
Which brings us to the issue: I am probably in the top one percent of the world who has the means to retreat from the fire to the shire. Most do not have this blessing. Stewardship responsibility demands that I cannot live here; I must only retreat and refresh here that I might plunge back into the fire—too many are perishing, too many burn. If you’re reading this, you most likely are in that one percent of the world, too. Even the poor in the West have the opportunity to pull back from the hottest part of the flames. You, too, have the responsibility to make your shire a place of retreat and renewal, not a place of residence.
Lest this analogy is not crystal clear, let me be blunt, drawing from “The Lord of the Rings” imagery and narrative.
1) Our world is on fire.
Men, women, and children of all ages, races, and religions plunge into the eternal flame. Corruption and iniquity abound. We are in the last days, and it will only get worse. Humankind desperately needs to know of the loving Savior who has made a way to escape the eternal fire. The fires of this world pale compared to the fire to come. We can’t pretend that the world is not on fire.
2) Because the world is on fire, we cannot retreat to reside in our shire—for both practical and moral reasons.
Morally, it is unjust for us to be safe while others perish when we have the means to aid them. Practically, the shire will not escape the fire. The battle is coming to us, and indeed it is the last battle. It will leave no stone of earth unturned or un-scorched. To bury our heads in the green grass of the shire, hoping the fire will pass us by, is foolish self-delusion.
3) We may be hobbits (weak and frail, silly and foolish), yet we’ve been chosen to leave our shires to take the battle to Mordor (the evil center of the flames).
We might not feel it yet or we might know it deep down and resist it or we might have retreated, wounded from the fire and fray and reluctant to return, but we are called to battle. The times and meta-narrative demand it—even from hobbits, especially from hobbits.
I do not begrudge you your shire, and I hope you don’t begrudge me mine. But neither of us can reside here. The world is on fire, and this shire is doomed. We will retreat to our shires for respite and renewal, but we must buckle on our smoke blackened armor again and return to battle. “Once more unto the breach dear friends…once more.” (Shakespeare’s Henry V)