Idle hands really are the devil’s workshop.
The dentist office. The barber shop. The hospital. The car place. We’ve waited in all of them. I could have gotten something done while sitting in most of them, but productive determinations never seem to materialize when there’s a cell phone or a pile of dog-eared magazines nearby. If you’re an eight-year-old, the waiting experience is much worse. Immaturity plus energy turns into a cocktail of chaos. A couple of kids can demolish a guest lobby or make each other cry in mere minutes. I remember doing the same thing when I was that age. An aggravated crusty old nurse once threatened to come out of her reception booth and give me and my siblings a round of shots if we didn’t behave.
Big question: What should we Christians do while we wait for the return of Jesus Christ? If we don’t know, life here will become a waiting room experience—unproductive, boring, or riddled with destructive mischief.
Peter firstly answers by spelling out what we shouldn’t do—“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14). That is, don’t dumpster dive into your old sins. We shouldn’t greet Jesus formed into the image of what we once were.
What is the alternative? “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1:15-16). This is what God wants for us while we wait.
Like any good parent, He is all too clear about what we might get into otherwise.
Mom and dad typically secure poisonous substances. They know little ones get bored and drink Drano, even though it doesn’t come in cherry flavor. I still can’t completely understand it. I wouldn’t eat paint chips with bacon and cheddar piled on top of them, but kids have an automatic hand-to-mouth reflex. It’s much worse when taste is an incentive for them.
One day, my wife found our three-year old Elizabeth flashing a mouthful of neon-orange teeth. “Look!” she said in her cute baby voice. My wife was horrified. “What have you done?”
Elizabeth replied, “I ate vitamin c’s—many of them!” The little tyke had pushed a chair up to the kitchen counter, climbed onto it, and eaten half a jug of flavored vitamin c tablets. My wife called poison control. They told her to either let the vitamin c run its course which would end in explosive diarrhea, or give her syrup of ipecac and get some barfing started. My wife opted for the ipecac. It was an orange extravaganza that day.
The point is we can imbibe plenty of things while we await the return of Jesus. Some of them taste good. The moral and spiritual drift of our day has more flavors than an ice cream parlor, but God doesn’t want us binging on them, much less turning them into regular dietary items. Such feeding has a subliminal conforming effect upon human beings, including upon those who trumpet non-conformity.
Few can say where their most stringently held beliefs have originated. It seems most people hold a collection of ideas strained from the goulash of peers, a sprinkle of Darwin to protect oneself from theism, a dash of Hume to guard against their loss of moral autonomy. The sum total is a vocal, opinionated populace with no sanctification. The intellectual food being passed around cannot make anyone holy, although it has a remarkable power to do the opposite.
During dialogue, I commonly hear people (including Christians) say they’re okay with this or that moral attitude, even if it directly opposes things in scripture. But God didn’t ask if we were “okay” with something. Of course we’re okay with it; after all, we’re sinners, and therefore unholy. He’s telling us He’s not okay with it.
During this interim between Christ’s departure and second coming, God commands us to cultivate a walk that matches Him. For starters, He gave us a book that shows what is holy and what isn’t. The Bible literally describes holiness in a setting of selfless service to people, life change, deep devotion to God, healthy ethical relationships, faithful witness, and the excellent fruit of life in the Spirit.
That’s a lot of venues. A lot of exploration. A lot of learning. The Christian life can easily turn into eighty years of profound surprises before we slip off into death to continue waiting for Him. And then there’s the possibility that some of us will be in the middle of the process here on earth, when it suddenly gets interrupted by the personal return of Christ. There we’ll be, caught red-handed while pursuing holiness.
Either way, our wait is a busy one. Even in full engagement with Christian life and service, we will barely have enough time before the glorious Lord comes.