One Way in Which Christians are Super UnBiblical

The Bible repeatedly says, "Be not afraid!" But many Christians are like, "nah."

Monday night I stood in a line outside Aldi, a nearby grocery store that I frequent often, waiting to be let in. California recently moved to increased measures of lockdown in response to this winter wave of Covid 19, thereby limiting the number of people who could be inside at one time.

As it was almost my turn to be let in a man exited the store holding a sack of food and quickly yanked off his mask (as though he couldn’t get outside and unmasked fast enough), and proceeded to shout out loud both to everyone and to no one in particular, “Better get ready, people!”

At first I thought it had something to do with the line we were standing in. As in, “get ready” to be let in, or “get ready” for longer lines inside at the checkout.

But no. That’s not where Señor Shouty Guy was going.

“Wake up and get ready, people!
Jesus is coming back soon!”

Oooooh... did NOT see that coming.

So embarrassing.

Turns out, a threat/warning/announcement of the imminent return of Jesus was what this man couldn’t wait to get outside the store and yell. As loud as he could.

“Jesus is coming back,” he yelled again. And then, as he was nearly out of range from those of us in the line he shouted out one last exhortation, “Wake up and smell the coffee, people!”

I turned to the gal behind me in line and muttered, “Sorry pal, I came here for sour cream, not coffee.”

More Toilet Paper, Less Trumpets

People have been shouting about the “return of Jesus” ever since he left the first time.

A cursory reading of Paul and Peter’s letters show they were obsessed with the belief that Jesus would come back any-freaking-minute! Scholars debate whether they believed he’d return literally and bodily in their lifetime, or whether they were being more spiritual/metaphorical. However, when I read these early letters passed around the first churches, I definitely think they expected a literal return of Jesus any minute. It’s hard to miss their frenetic energy of, “Holy crap, everyone, get your affairs in order. Stop messing around. Quit sinning! Jesus is coming back any minute, like a thief in the night. Do not let yourself get caught unawares!”

Well, Jesus didn’t return then, and contrary to what Aldi Shopper Shouter believes, I don’t think he’s coming back now, either.

But for the past 2000 years there have been Christians who have lived in a sort of perpetual state of fear around things like:

  • the end of days,

  • the end times,

  • the Apocalypse, and

  • the return of the Lord.

Mr. Smell the Coffee embodied this flavor of anxious urgency about him and he couldn’t understand why the rest of us didn’t.

To his utter dismay we were more concerned that the store had toilet paper in stock than we were that the “trump might resound and the Lord could possibly descend."

God Casts Out Fear

The season of Advent is a season of waiting, expecting, hoping.

It is the time of year where we practice anticipation. But I don’t think it’s supposed to be an anxious waiting. This isn’t a, “Wake up everyone! Get ready!” sort of waiting, where you’re more driven by fear than anything else.

Rather it’s a hopeful expectation. It’s excitement about what Christians call the Incarnation, a fancy word that points to the idea of the Divine being made manifest in a way that us humans can comprehend it, even if only semi-kinda-sorta.

I don’t know if Jesus is coming back, like Aldi Guy predicted, but I know that Christmas is the story of when he came that one time, 2000 years ago. And somehow, as the stories go, with his birth and his life he brought with him peace, joy, and love.

He showed people what God looked like. So much so, that the author of Hebrews called Jesus the “express image of God.” An exact representation.

Peace. Joy. Love. Hope. These are the things the presence of God should be offering people. Not fear.

If you’re afraid of God, I think you might be doing it wrong.

Advent invites us to drop our fear (see: Angels message to Mary, and to Joesph, and to the shepherds in the field). For when God comes near, to quote St John, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and, “God is love.”

Ergo, God is in the fear-casting business, not the fear-causing one.

I guess in a sense, I agree with Aldi Man. Sure, wake up and smell the coffee. For God is coming. Actually, in truth, God is already here, now.

And it is good.

So may you enjoy the delightful aroma of the Jesus flavored coffee.

But may your waking up be peaceful and light-filled, not doomsday and frightening.

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