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 not longer be offered there. The followers of Jesus were expecting his imminent return . . . and nothing. He has not come back yet. This is the background of the Epistle of James when he wrote this letter. In many ways, this still applies to us today.
Why hasn't Christ come back already? What's going on here? Where is he?
This is the Season of Advent. This Sunday is the Second Sunday of Advent. We celebrate that Christ has come and we await for his coming again, but he hasn't shown up. Is this perhaps a lie? Is this giving us a false sense of hope?
All throughout Christianity's 2000+ history, there are times when people insist that Christ would be coming again. People assumed he would come back again when the Temple was destroyed . . . when the year 1000 came . . . during World War I . . . during World War II . . . in 1988 . . . in 2000 . . . in 2011. Where is Christ and why does he tarry?
I don't know. I'm not certain if any of us can give an answer that can satisfy that question. I also believe that assigning dates to his return is not wise.
And James implores us to be patient. (For those wondering, in the agriculture world of the Middle East, the rains and planting season come in the Fall (October) and are harvested in the Spring, which is why James talks about the rains coming at that particular time.) James 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, I believe "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 that looks to me is perhaps different from how you perceive it. In fact, some have accused me of not believing in a literal Hell. (I'll save that for another post.)
However, I believe we are going about this 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 being patient, but we shouldn't focus on the Coming of the Lord. Instead, we should do our part as his followers here on Earth. We should serve others as we serve God.