By Alex Florez
I often worry about being caught off guard by the return of Jesus. Perhaps my active imagination has been over-fertilized by all the post-apocalyptic movies and literature I’ve consumed over the years. So, when I think of the second coming, my mind goes to some dark places.
I should be at peace thinking of the return of my King, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit concerned that if Jesus came storming in on the clouds tomorrow, He would find me inadequate. Or, perhaps worse, He might say He doesn’t even know me at all.
Full of apprehension about facing the Lord, I frantically wonder, “What can I do to get my act together enough for Jesus to find me worthy?” Perhaps I can design a program of self-improvement and self-purgation, that would add enough of the right stuff and shed enough of the wrong in order to quell my fears of encountering the revenant Lord.
Then in Romans 13, I seem to stumble on a list of “no-no’s” that will help me get started being “good enough.” The carousing, the drunkenness, the sexual impurity: these are behaviors I can avoid for myself and malign in others, thus reinforcing the illusion that I am one of the good guys. But we must read to the end of verse 13. The inventory of verboten indulgences in Romans 13:13 (among others throughout Scripture), include not only the conspicuous sins of the flesh but also some other nuanced items that, I fear, we Christians too readily overlook or, worse, tacitly excuse.
Gossip, slander, quarreling, jealousy. Are these not absolutely rampant among the brethren? Why do we permit these community-killing habits? Why are there no brigades of Christians marching outside of churches with picket signs warning the gossips and the hypocrites and the liars that God’s wrath is upon them unless they confess, repent, and immediately reform?
Paul’s admonishment is clear: “The night is nearly over…so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). We certainly ought to flee carnal sin and intemperance. But if putting on the armor of light is tantamount to “put[ting] on the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.14), then we should take care to remember that Jesus is the one who will truly “reveal the intentions of the hearts” (1Corinthians 4:5). I cannot hide my hypocrisy, my greed, my slander, and my covetousness from Jesus.
We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that we can cleanse ourselves by stringent moral programming. Rather, we must allow Him to shed light on our darkness, effective immediately. I need not fear the coming of the Lord because I know He has already begun the work of eradicating my darkness from the inside out. If Jesus were to return tomorrow, He will find my lamp ready for the Light of the World, for He has already begun trimming the wick.