Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13)I have usually thought of standing firm in terms of not being deceived, not giving in to the increase of wickedness, not falling away in the face of persecution if it comes to that. True enough; it's all there. I had managed to miss how central a part of "standing firm" is not letting our love grow cold, how central a part of falling away is betraying and hating each other. How often do we Christians figuratively hand each other over to those who hate us? How often do we think that the god-haters of our day would like our group (our group must be the good guys of the Christians, right?) if only we publicly disown each other (the other group that contains the bad guys, of course). Or even inside my own home, when exhaustion kicks in, it is easy to see perseverance in the easy terms of getting through another day. Is getting through another day really what it means to persevere?
The devastating effect of the increase of wickedness is that love grows cold. Given that Jesus speaks of goodness -- the greatest of the laws -- as being love, that deserves a second look. Given that love is the very nature of God, letting our love grow cold deserves a second look. Wickedness causes our love to grow cold, and coldness is wicked. Perseverance with Christ is not a grim determination. It is a determination that our love will not grow cold, for either him or our family and neighbors.
Lord, have mercy.