By Dn Leong Pei De
During this time last year, history was being made as we were in the middle of the first ever Circuit Breaker – schools and workplaces were closed, eating out was no longer possible, and social life as we knew it was put on hold. Our weekend church routine was upended, and we had to pivot quickly, adopting digital platforms to hold our services. We waited. For the spread of the COVID-19 cases to be contained, for the authorities to announce updated regulations on safe management, travel and work. We are continuing to wait today, a year on, for our turn to be vaccinated, hopefully for all this to be over so that we can get back to our lives. Does this mean though that we have not been ‘living’ in the meantime? Does waiting necessitate a passive resignation? Is not the Christian posture primarily one of waiting?
While Jesus was still with his disciples, he told them he was going back to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them and that he would come back to take them with him (John 14:3). Believers through the centuries have thus been awaiting Christ’s return. We look forward to a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21), anticipate the bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:35-58), and join in with God’s redemptive mission to make disciples of all peoples. We wait.
The apostle Paul waited as well. Shortly after being forced to leave the church in Thessalonica, he longed to return to be with and encourage the believers. So great was his desire, that he sent Timothy in his place so that he could receive updates about the progress and challenges they were facing. It is likely that Paul only made it back in his third missionary journey (perhaps some 2 years or more later). In the meantime, Paul continued his ministry, writing letters to encourage, teach and minister from afar. Paul did not sit around and complain or be resigned to the forces of opposition (and it was certainly more serious than a travel ban). He continued to be like a mother to the Thessalonian believers, caring for them and sharing his life with them; he continued to be a father to them encouraging, comforting and urging them to live lives worthy of God (1 Thess 2:8-12), albeit from afar. He waited- praying, writing letters, and finally re-connecting with them in person.
Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian believers are like many of his other letters, were filled with instruction on how to live the Christian life. But these letters do more than clarify theology; they are filled to the brim with affection and encouragement for the believers whose belief in and hunger for the gospel encouraged him, their teacher. Paul wrote to build up his Thessalonian faith family, not with empty platitudes, but with a hope rooted in one truth: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah” (Acts 17:3).
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being invited to the home of a long-time church member. Just going to someone’s house right? Something that we have started to enjoy again since the authorities have relaxed the social gather restrictions. But we had a purpose, that is to fellowship. Over a home-made breakfast, 7 men of varying ages (up to 45 years apart) shared snippets of our lives, our journeys, our concerns over the future and prayed for one another. A similar situation was happening in 2 other homes/ locations enjoyed face to face meet ups. Apostle Peter says we are to be characterized by holiness and godliness as we wait for and ‘hasten’ the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:11-12). While we wait, our Christian living does not have to be a passive resignation. Instead persist in what we have been called to do (albeit needing to do them differently) to urge, encourage, and point others towards Christ and holy living.
Perhaps this time next year, we would no longer be awaiting the re-opening of borders. Regardless, let us hang onto the hope we profess, watching and wating for the approaching day.