Over 2,000 years have passed since Jesus Christ spoke of His return. His warning, "Do not be caught off-guard" seems to have lost some of its initial impact. Initially, He was to return during the apostle's generation, but many generations have since passed. Why a change in the timetable? One thing we know that changed is that the "Good News," as heralded by Saint Paul, would now encompass all mankind. Also, a factor could be that the Lord's Prayer indicates a transformation on earth will take place. "Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." Considering the morality of the world today it is doubtful a red carpet would be rolled out for Jesus if He were to return today. But it is very important to keep in mind that the creator is not dependent on His creation. God all powerful, creator of the universe and all that is in it, can come anytime He so desires. So take heed of God's warning and take advantage of the time He has given us to correct the faults within us.
What should we do to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, or just as important, our departure from this world before He comes? A good starting point is a self evaluation of how well we abide by the Ten Commandments. Conformance, as intended by God, was to be of our own free will. Unfortunately, our early religious and community leaders, in their zealousness, were quite harsh and unforgiving in enforcing them. Jesus Christ clarifieed God's intention when He summarized the Ten Commandments into two distinct acts of love; love God above all and love your neighbor as yourself. Love does nothing to displease and everything to please. Adherence guarantees our salvation. Sounds easy enough, but without a conscientious effort is not easily attained.
It is unlikely we can love someone above all whom we know little about. Therefore, if we are to love God above all, it is necessary that we start to know more about Him. A starting point can be the Ten Commandments, but they reveal little of His nature. To understand the nature of God more fully we must learn more about the nature of His Son, Jesus Christ, who took human form and lived among us. Qualities we admire and would seek in the one we love are understanding and forgiveness, compassion and undoubting love.
We recognize the understanding and forgiving nature of God in His parable of the Prodigal Son. Once we have given up our wanton ways, He welcomes us back with open arms. Compassion is shown in practically every miracle Jesus Christ performs. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the dead are brought back to life. The extent of God's love is boundless. When Jesus Christ willingly gives His life so that we may have eternal life it is the greatest act of love ever performed. It is frustrating to try and find words that adequately express the depth of His love. The more we learn about God it is inevitable that our love for Him grows. To love Him above all is a natural outcome.
Love for your neighbor is not easily achieved. The news media reminds us of this every day. If we look at loving our neighbor on a worldwide scale we are easily overwhelmed, but if we limit it to our sphere in influence, such as family and community, it becomes attainable. The words, to love as yourself, direct us to evaluate the faults within us. Our neighbors' faults should not be a distraction from what we need to do to improve our relationships with our fellow man. Faults we should take immediate steps to correct are the petty arguments, jealousies, envy, prejudice, egoism and revenge, for they inhibit the development of love for our neighbor. Faults obviously are not tolerated in Heaven. Faults disappear when we replace them with loving qualities such as respect, fairness, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion.
Transition from faults to loving qualities is not achieved overnight. It requires a conscientious daily effort. We can expect many fairlures before we reach a level of success. Our efforts will not always be accepted. But in time we will be surprised and encouraged by how much our lives and the world around us has improved.
The accomplishments of an individual may seem inconspicuous, but in the aggregate, they can transform the world. When we review some of man's accomplishments over a generations we get a more inspiring picture of the world than the news media presents. We see the walls of prejudice being slowly broken down. Marriage between different religions and races is now more acceptable. Religions are recognizing the commonalities in their faith, working toward free acceptance rather than forcefull domination. Nations united to find peaceful solutions to problems. These are gigantic social improvements. They did not occur overnight, nor are they yet complete. They are the results of the individuals who, over the generations, would not sway from the belief that we are all God's children and have a responsibility to love and care for each other.
The time to avoid being caught off-guard is now. We should stop straddling the fence and commit ourselves to self improvement. It is not wise to game with eternity.
The Gift of Christmas
Glory and Joy of Easter