Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wait for the coming of the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near. -- James 5:7-8 (CEB)

There was another failed rebellion. The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Sacrifices could no longer be offered there. The followers of Jesus were expecting his imminent return . . . and nothing happened. He has not come back yet. This was the background of the Epistle of James when he wrote this letter. In many ways, the truths still apply to us today as we wait for Christ’s return.

Why hasn't Christ come back already? What's going on here? Where is he? This is the Season of Advent. We celebrate that Christ has come; and we wait for his coming again, but he hasn't shown up, yet. Is the return of Christ perhaps a lie? Is this expectation giving us a false sense of hope? Throughout Christianity's 2000+ years of history, there have been times when people insisted that Christ would be coming again. Many people assumed that his return would coincide with a major historical event, such as when the Temple was destroyed; at year 1000; during a World War; in 1988; in 2000, with all the Y2K hype; or in 2012.

Where is Christ and why does he tarry (wait)? I don't know. I'm not certain if any of us can give an answer that can satisfy that question.

Still, James, the brother of Jesus, implores us to be patient. To understand James’ writing, we need to know that in the agricultural world of the Middle East, the rains and planting season come in the Fall (October) and are harvested in the Spring. This is why James talks about the rains coming at that particular time (James 5: 7-8). James also tells us that the coming of the Lord is near. Near must be a relative term for James. One could lose heart at this waiting. However, I believe that this is perhaps the wrong thing to do.

Is Christ coming again? As a Salvationist (a Christian in the Salvation Army church), I believe in our doctrine, "in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked." Just how I understand this doctrine is perhaps different from your comprehension of it.

However, I believe we are going about this waiting in the wrong way. Are we waiting for Christ to come again? Yes. What does that waiting look like? I can tell you what it does not look like. It does not look like giving up. When people look at the state of the world: the suffering, global climate change, environmental catastrophes, the poverty, wars, etc., people sometimes throw up their hands and just say, "It's the sign of the times." "The world is going to Hell. What should I do?" "Lord, come soon. I can't take it anymore." These attitudes are wrong.

Instead, we need to be doing our part to ease the suffering of this world. Yes, things are bad. Yes, humanity is suffering. We should do something about it. We are called by Christ himself to go into this world and make it a better place, teaching others to follow him and loving others as Christ has loved us. It's hard to be patient, but we shouldn't solely focus on the Coming of the Lord. Instead, we should also do our part as his followers here on Earth.

Timothy McPherson
Former Officer
Branson West
Missouri, United States

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