the Advent hope: communal

 

For what thanks can we give back to God about you, for all the joy which we celebrate because of you in the presence of our God, praying with even more fervor than you can imagine, night and day, that we may see you face to face and may put into proper order anything that is lacking in your faith?

Now may God himself, our father, and our Lord Jesus, steer us on our way to you. And may the Lord make your love for one another, and for everybody, abound and overflow, just as ours does for you. That way, your hearts will be strengthened and kept blameless in holiness before God our father when our Lord Jesus is present again with all his holy ones. Amen.

The Kingdom New Testament

In our western modernist, individualistic, privatistic mindset, passages on holiness are usually seen as ways to shape our own character. How that impacts others is regarded as important, but secondary to that.

Not so in this passage in which we see the Advent hope linked to present relationships with other Christians and with everyone else. The holiness which God is working in us to be completed on the day of our Lord’s return is tied to the present work of love he is also working in us, which is spoken of elsewhere in this letter, as well (4:9-10).

This is the Lord’s work, invoked by Paul, and it would seem, a proper object of prayer for us. So our growth in holiness, and eventual blamelessness in such on the day of our Lord’s coming is tied to the gift, and along with that, the hard work of loving each other and everyone else, as our Lord taught us- including our enemies. It should come from the heart, and that is surely in significant part the Lord’s work. As Paul says elsewhere, what God is working in, we’re to work out in our lives (Philippians 2:12-13).

We should not think that this will be easy, some kind of cakewalk, just because God is working in us to that end. But God is faithful. We can rest assured that when we fail, he won’t, so that in the long run God’s faithfulness can help us to become more and more faithful in learning to live in his will. Of course loving others, and especially in a family, even the family of believers, will require grace in forgiving each other, and being forgiven, and commitment to each other, come what may. And love for all others, those outside the family of faith.

And so the hope we have as we look ahead to our Lord’s return is tied to our love in the present for each other in Jesus, as well as for everyone else. May we grow in that love together, as we look forward to its complete fruition in Jesus on that Day.

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