Two weeks ago, one of the pastors of my church shared a message on the second coming of Christ, which, I feel, is pertinent to this blog and, so, I would like to highlight it here today.
Pastor Yong Chee Weng, one of the newest pastors at Calvary Church and one who has a good understanding of the challenges facing modern-day Christians — which he often addresses — made a point that Christians need to take note of.
Sharing from the parable of the 10 virgins (Matt 25: 1-13), he said Christians tend to “go off to sleep” while waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ — like the five foolish virgins (bridesmaids in modern translation) who failed to trim their lamps. The five wise virgins, on the other hand, made sure they had enough oil to keep lighting up their candles. When the bridegroom (analogous to Jesus Christ) came — late, at midnight — the wise virgins had fuel to light their candles and welcome the bridegroom but the foolish ones didn’t and were shut out of the wedding banquet.
All 10 virgins went to sleep, but the five wise ones, though sleeping, were prepared to wake up and be ready for the bridegroom at a moment’s call.
Pastor Yong then made a statement that casts a clear perspective as to how we are to live while waiting for our Lord’s return. He said when we know how the end is going to be it should influence how we are to live now. In his words, “the end is now!”
Rightly so! Scripture tells us how the end will happen. Knowing it, how do we live? Wait in complacency? Forget about it and just live now? Both extremes are a form of “going to sleep”!
When we know how the end will come, we should be prepared now! Because the end can happen now or our own individual end may happen when we die! Knowing “the end” is near should give us an edge to live actively now. So that, whether the end comes or we die, we would have lived full, meaningful lives.
How to live the Christian life is learnt as we go to church. That’s what the priests and pastors are there for: to help us live. So, I won’t go into what our spiritual leaders teach us as we get it at church.
I, only, want to stress three points here.
Firstly, church is a community. When we are part of a local church we are part of a network of relationships with the leaders and one another. Church is characterized by relationships not a building or location.
The problem, however, is that we assume we know how to relate, just because we know we must love one another. That is the major challenge to modern churches because of two main factors: the stresses of life and the multi-cultural nature of communities.
Modern-day stresses make it difficult to relate. We tend to relate as we naturally do but we don’t succeed very well because we are not loving as our Lord teaches. The latter has to be acquired, learnt and practised to reflect redeemed expressions of love, which collectively form a very powerful testimony.
It is when our natures are redeemed by Love that we relate as Christ does. And, that has a special relevance in a multi-cultural context. Churches are becoming more multi-cultural and relating cross-culturally needs to become a priority in order to demonstrate Christlike relationships.
This is extremely needful in the modern context so that people of every background can find shelter and refuge in the shadow of the Almighty.
When we fail to show Christlike love, the church becomes less of a community and less cohesive to keep the Christian in step in faith. Many will just go to sleep!
Secondly, the Christian life is to be lived. Christian life is not just going to church, getting involved in church activities and giving money for “God’s work”. The Christian life is to live now as God designed us individually to live. We are to follow Scripture in exploring and discovering who we are and living out our lives in faith to our fullest potential. We become who we are meant to be, and, no matter when “the end” comes, we’ll be ready!
Such a life involves facing up to the realities and challenges of life and dealing with them. We can’t always be running to the altar and pray for God to help us when we don’t rise up to the occasion to confront the issue and get past it. It requires faith to do that. And, when we do it, our lives have a certain edge of dynamism that will make it difficult for us “to go to sleep”!
Christians must realise, too, that we can’t live in isolation from the larger society we are a part of. We need to be constantly engaging people from the larger society not to share Christ but out of a sense of belonging to it. We need to get involved with the people around us as integral to our commitment to the larger society. We care for the larger society because we belong to it and want to use our gifts and involvement to better our combined lot. We need to get involved in public discourse, political and electoral processes, and in endeavours to uplift social and economic conditions. In doing so, we need to shed this holier-than-thou attitude that people can’t connect with and remove the mask of a good face to present “a testimony” which people can see right through at the rot (the unredeemed nature) behind it.
Even here, we need Christ-inspired love to just be honest, sincere and real and reach out as an equal to an equal because that’s what we are — equal human beings.
We also need to engage with the larger society to establish laws and conventions that would protect us as a Christian community, so that, in times of need, we have some support structures in place in the larger community that we can rely on for survival.
In other words, we have to be fully involved in life to give the best of ourselves and to receive the best of others. That would also make it easy for others to see what the Christ-centred life means.
Thirdly, when we live fully now in anticipation of the end we develop a lifestyle that prepares not only us but those who come after us to meet the end. This is the key point I want to make, and, that, really is the point of brideinwaiting.net: To live to the fullest now, so that we can pass on to those who come after us to do the same.
The challenges they are going to face will be much greater than what we are facing now. In their time, Christian institutions and buildings and systems may be demolished and destroyed. What will remain is the community of Christians. If the community is not strong and bonded in Christlike relationships, it will fall away. If Christians are not living life to the fullest, empowered by faith to confront the challenges of our times, we fall away or “go to sleep”!
To be prepared for the end, we need to live now! That’s what brideinwaiting.net is all about. Thanks, Pastor Yong, for the reminder!