First published August 16, 2016
'See ya,' we say to friends when we part, whether in person or even on the phone. Kiwis have a weird habit of saying 'see ya' to complete strangers who we may never meet again. We say it but we don't always mean it—the phrase is really about the nice sentiment, the gesture.
'See ya' actually means 'we had a nice interaction; it would be fine with me if we met again'. In fact, in Kiwi culture it isn't unusual to suggest someone we've just met should come over for dinner sometime. But 'sometime' may never happen as it is a vague and non-existent time in the future. Asking a virtual stranger to come over for dinner is merely a gesture of friendliness—not a real desire to make concrete plans to have someone over.
So what do Christians mean when they say 'see ya' to Jesus? We pray 'your kingdom come', and we speak of Jesus returning, but I wonder what we really mean? Are these just words or our real, heartfelt expectation?
I wonder whether you think about Jesus' return or not? Is Jesus' return an afterthought, a relic of Christian belief without relevance or reality?
Jesus, please take your time
There have been times where I have wanted Jesus to wait. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have a child. I wanted to travel. I think we are all familiar with the fear of missing out—Jesus can come back when I'm ready, thank you very much.
We can see Jesus' return as an interruption; like a friend who comes for a visit when you are in the middle of something: 'couldn't you have called first?'
Don't even think about it
Maybe Jesus' return is relegated to the place of an old tradition you have no time for, like a dusty hymn book in the church cupboard. Yes, I guess I know he will come back but I just don't expect him to.
Maybe it is part of being young and being well-off in a well-off part of the world; I know I have been all about me and my dreams.
I'm easily distracted by good things. Yes, it is good to enjoy what God has given to us and yet we should beware of being sucked into living for today (Luke chapter 24, verse 34).
Jesus, please come soon!
Not often do I think longingly for the return of Jesus; tired of living in the world as it is, longing to be close to Jesus, to be freed from sin, freed from the sadness and senseless stupidity of the world.
While I have not often found myself praying for Jesus to return, I can see why believers across history and throughout the world have prayed for Jesus to come back soon.
When I think about the challenges of living as a Christian in our society, I pray: 'Lord Jesus, please come back'. When I think of the uncertainty of our world with violent and evil people threatening peace, I pray: 'Lord Jesus, please come back'.
When I think of how great being with Jesus will be, when I think of feasting in the kingdom of God and being at peace—then that image overwhelms the drama or enjoyment of the here and now and makes me say: 'Jesus, come back soon!'
Maybe part of why we might not think much of Jesus return is that we have been misled by famous predictions of when Jesus will return, but this flies in the face of what the Bible says. While Jesus said to look for the signs (Luke chapter 21, verse 36) he also said that no one knows the exact date or time when he will come back (Mark chapter 13, verse 32) so we shouldn't listen when people claim to know and start making predictions. Claiming to know something that Jesus didn't know—you've got to be kidding me.
To obsess about when Jesus is coming isn't helpful; however, we should live in readiness for his return.
Readiness is not like the doomsday prepper who stockpiles weapons and food in a secret bunker. To get ready for Jesus is to be living in a way where he will be pleased at his return. Will he say 'well done' or will he be disappointed in seeing a life that is wasted.
We should long for his coming
It is right to be sad about the state of our world and experience a longing for his goodness and justice. It is right to feel the burden of the on-going struggle against sin and long for the day when our struggle will end.
We should live for his coming
We must live like Jesus will return!
The worker in Jesus' parable uses what he is given well, so that when his Lord comes he sees a job well done (Matthew Chapter 25 verses 14–30). We must make the most of the time we have to take Jesus' message of mercy to people who haven't heard or understood it before.
Andrew Sinclair is a Kiwi living in Sydney, Australia with his wife Sophia and their sons Guy and Frank. He is studying theology at Sydney Missionary and Bible College.
Andrew Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/andrew-sinclair.html