Monday, January 22, 2007

Waiting

Well, what are you waiting for? Or maybe I should ask: are you waiting for anything at all? I think that one of the fundamental reasons for the secularization of the Church is that people aren’t waiting anymore. They don’t know what Christians are supposed to be waiting for, so they live their lives essentially without any sort of eschatological hope.

Christians aren’t supposed to be too settled in this world, not too concerned with building a secure and comfortable environment in which to enjoy the few decades they’ve been granted here. No, here is what Christians are supposed to do: “renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:12-14). We’re supposed to be waiting for the return of the Lord!

Now this doesn’t mean we have to engage in all sorts of apocalyptic speculations about dates and times and the geopolitical configurations that indicate his imminent return (in fact, we shouldn’t). But it does mean that we should have a goal, a vision, a direction of our thoughts and actions toward the coming of the Coming One. For if we’re clear on our ultimate goal and expectation, we will know how to organize our lives in this world so as to move steadily toward that goal, living in readiness and earnest desire for the fullness of life in eternal joy.

The New Testament is full of this teaching about the “orientation” of disciples of Christ: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Phil. 3:20). “The creation waits with eager longing… we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies… if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:19, 23-25). “Set your hope fully on the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 1:13). “We wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells… since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2Peter 3:13-14). “You turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1Thess. 1:9-10). Etc, etc.

This waiting, however, is not like the bored or irritated waiting of people in doctor’s offices or traffic jams. It is an active, attentive waiting. “Watch and pray, for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33). “Be sober, be watchful” (1Peter 5:8). “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time…” (Eph. 5:15).

Many Christians seem to have lost the awareness that we’re supposed to be watching and waiting, living in such a way as to be found worthy of Him who has died for our sins, so that “you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1Peter 4:13). As people tend not to look for his coming anymore (even though they express this conviction every time they say the Creed), and hence gradually fall away from a life-giving relationship with God, we have to ask, with Jesus, the dreaded question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Be aware, then, what Christians are supposed to be waiting for, and by the way you live your life look to Him who is coming. If we do not believe in the return of the Lord and hence the resurrection of the dead, Christianity becomes devoid of its life and power, and is reduced to the status of a set of moral guidelines, or worse, one more self-help technique for acquiring a bit of inner peace, or still worse, a mere social convention that has no effect whatever on people’s actual convictions or behavior (it already is this for Communion-receiving, baby-killing politicians).

Let your life reflect your hope; let it indicate what you are waiting for. Take the necessary steps toward Him who is coming back for you. “I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). This is the hope of Christians.

Wait a minute. Wait a year. Wait as long as it takes, but make sure you are found waiting for Him when He comes.