Keeping the Faith: For the long haul

Published: Friday, October 26, 2012 at 10:48 AM.

For those who grew up in the revivalistic tradition, we heard the same basic sermon every Sunday: “You are sinner. Repent or you’re going to hell. And you better get to it, because Jesus could return at any second and catch you unprepared.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard a preacher say something like, “The Lord Jesus could return at any moment! He could return before I finish preaching this morning!” And then the speaker would preach for so long, I thought that’s exactly what he was trying to achieve: Preach till Jesus got there.

I didn’t like this sort of exhortation. I was, after all, a teenager being told how big a sinner I was, but didn’t feel like I had gotten to sin very much yet. I hadn’t gotten to do much of anything! I hadn’t traveled, hadn’t earned my driver’s license, hadn’t had sex, hadn’t turned 21 or really even lived. If Jesus was content waiting all these centuries before returning to earth, just to show up at this particular blip in history to interrupt my simple little plans, then I concluded it would be a raw deal.

My feelings about so much of the “Second Coming” preaching I hear still makes me cranky (but for a different reason than when I was a teenager). We are so absolutely convinced that we are living in the final chapter of human history — on the last page, if not within the last sentence — that we are in danger of giving away the future.

Growing up in a tradition where the impending, imminent return of Christ was a pillar of our faith, the question was always asked, “What if Jesus came back today?” That’s a good question, no doubt. But here is a question that might be better: “What if he doesn’t?”

What if Jesus does not come back today … or tomorrow … or next year … or next decade … or next century?

What kind of world do we want to leave for our descendants? What kind of world will we have then? If we aren’t prepared for the long haul, prepared to persevere into a distant future, then have we not given up on actually living the faith we profess?



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