In Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” the author recounts a word-association experiment in which a group of American people and a group of French people were both shown a picture of chocolate cake and asked to write down the first word that came to their mind. For the Americans, the top response was “Guilt.” For the French, the top response was “Celebration.”
For many of us, the thought of Christ’s return elicits the same response as the Americans in the experiment felt towards chocolate cake: guilt. As a child, this guilt kept me up late into the night. I remember praying, “Dear God, please don’t come back while I am asleep. I promise that I’ll do better tomorrow.” Part of this fear was unduly brought on by the Left Behind books, but part of it was based in a visceral truth: I wasn’t ready to be judged by God.
In this week’s passage, we are reminded that Christ will return to rule over his kingdom and that this return will be accompanied by judgment. The guilt that we usually associate with this event is not without warrant. God will punish the wicked which, as Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, that means that he will punish us. If ever there was something to keep us up at night, it is this truth.
However, if you are united with Christ, you will not face this punishment. For the Christian, the bitter cup of God’s wrath was fully consumed by Jesus upon the cross. The punishment that you and I should receive was placed fully upon Christ. As a result of this sacrifice, God looks at us as he looks at Christ. Now, we are no longer objects of wrath, but beloved sons and daughters.
Out of this reality, we are spurred on to good works. Instead of saying, “I’ll do better!” out of shame, we live a life of repentance and obedience motivated by love for the one who showed us great mercy. We are no longer trying to bribe an executioner, but are instead longing to follow a good father. And out of this reality, we can look at Christ’s return through eyes of hope and associate this great reunion and consummation with celebration and not guilt.
Scripture: 2 Peter 3:1-2
Sermon: Ready For His Return?