“Christ … will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9.28b, CEB)
As I read this text and type my thoughts, my wife and I are expecting the birth of of our third grandchild. This will be the first child born to “my baby girl,” our daughter and her husband, and will be our third grandson (yes, they’re all boys). Now while all of our grandchildren are more than just a little bit dear to us, there is something just a wee bit special about this one we’re expecting now; namely, he’ll be quite close by and that’s a privilege we’ve never experienced before. My pulse quickens a bit just at the thought of it: we’re expecting a grandson right here where I live!
Did I say “expecting?” “Expecting” my eye; we’re “eagerly waiting” for him! We’re almost delirious with joy and virtually dancin’! Pity the poor soul who asks us about the situation because we’re liable to talk their legs off. If you’re the one who asks, you’d best just get comfortable because it’s going to take awhile between showing you the 4D ultrasound pics, bringing you up to speed on how his mother is doing, how we’re doing with the waiting, etc., etc., etc.
Get the picture?
Now “expecting” should be at the very least an equally lame word to describe how Christians feel about their Lord’s return. And yet, I dare say if you randomly asked a great many Christians the question “How would you describe your feelings about Christ’s return?” the clear majority would use most any word available … so long as that word lives a great ways from the word “eager.” Dare I say it? A great many Christians even “dread” his return and they’re not at all ashamed to say so plainly.
Why is this? Is it that they have little or no confidence in their salvation? Do they completely misunderstand what all their Savior’s arrival will mean for them? Have they swallowed hook, line, and sinker some deformed gospel that is no “gospel” or “good news” at all, one that places no real value on, the quality and expression of joy? How on earth could it be that they’ve come to be at best “reluctant” to welcome the arrival of the only One who can come to save them completely from themselves and sin, from Satan and the world, from darkness and despair?
While there are surely a thousand explanations, I can’t help but think there is one dominant reason common to most who feel such a way and that reason is simply this: they’ve never deeply seen faith and religion, Christianity and discipleship, hope and belief, as anything remotely like a relationship between persons. Instead of religion being about the rendezvous of Father and family, Savior and saved, Spirit and spirits, it has been to them all along as something more like the making, keeping, and enforcement of expectations, rules, and boundaries. It has more in common with a legal agreement than about lives entwined. It’s like “expecting” a grandchild that will live close by and dreading what all that will entail.
Merciful heavens! Two texts leap to my mind:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a, TNIV)
“… our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ …” (Philippians 3:20, TNIV)
“Expect” as you well, but as for me and my house, we’re eagerly waiting. And I’m not talking about a grandson!
Heavenly Father, in the strong name of Jesus our Lord, break through the barriers and habits long in place and well up in every Christian heart such a confidence over the work of Christ, such a great grasp of your good love, and such a sense of blessing over just the prospect of being completely together with you that they cannot help but look upon your arrival with eagerness, enthusiasm, and zeal. Amen. And amen.