Posted: 22 Nov 2010 11:00 PM PST
IT IS ONE THING TO WAIT for the Lord's coming; it is another to wait well.
One may honestly and self-consciously wait for the Lord's coming, not only acknowledging that the Second Advent is a necessary part of our creed but even after a fashion looking forward to the Parousia, and hoping it will occur in our lifetime—only to find, on reflection, that the way we live has been affected very little by this perspective. In fact, this waiting for the return of the Lord may be nothing more than a hobbyhorse in our reading or teaching, a well-handled map of the future that divides us from other believers, rather than a fixed point in our worldview that decisively shapes how we conduct ourselves.
Of course, there is an element in waiting for the Lord's return that is just that—waiting. Just as "the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop" (James 5:7), so we too must "be patient and stand firm" (James 5:8).
But like all analogies, this one isn't perfect (it isn't meant to be), and James himself quickly leaves it behind. After all, the farmer is patient because he knows more or less when the harvest will take place; we do not know when Jesus' return will take place.
There are other differences. The farmer is waiting for crops; we are waiting for the Judge who "is standing at the door" (James 5:9). That means that what we are waiting for has an immediate bearing on how we live: "Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged" (James 5:9) by that very Judge himself.
Moreover, although farmers may have to work hard as they wait for the harvest, in the normal course of events their waiting is not characterized by suffering and persecution. Christians waiting for the End encounter both of those things, James insists—and with that in mind, our waiting might more properly be likened to the perseverance of the prophets (James 5:10) than to the placidity of the farmer. They "spoke in the name of the Lord," and more often than not were reviled for it. That suffering did not tame their faithful proclamation. But we need not restrict the models we look for to the prophets. Consider Job, a righteous man, who faced catastrophic reversals yet nevertheless persevered—and you "have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" (James 5:11). That perspective is important: in the end, not only God's justice but his compassion and mercy prevail. The focus on Jesus' return and on the End not only shapes our current living, but will bring with it perfect vindication in the unqualified goodness of the consummation.
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