By James Cornwell
A Reading from 2 Peter 3:11-18
11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
When encountering atrocity or some other sign of deep decay in our world, it seems right and fitting to respond with, “Come, Lord Jesus.” If only Jesus would hurry up and return, he’d set things right! But St. Peter suggests that this is only half of the story. In today’s reading, he concludes his second epistle with an exhortation not only to “wait for” but also to “hasten” the coming of the day of God — the day when our Lord will return to judge the living and the dead. He speaks of God’s “forbearance,” identified with the delay before Christ’s second coming. The wait, he says, is not due to God’s “slowness,” but instead to his mercy: God does not wish that any should perish or be caught unrepentant. Therefore, this is a time when we should be actively seeking to bring as many as possible into Christ’s fold.
It may seem like we have plenty of time to do this, and after all, don’t we have other things to attend to? Perhaps this is why St. Peter punctuates this note of hastening the day of God with talk of the elements being melted with fire and the heavens kindled and dissolved. The implication is that, in comparison to this mission of rescuing others and helping them toward God, all other things are secondary. The whole cosmos will have an end; but the human soul doesn’t, and some day our bodies will be resurrected to either life or death everlasting. As the instruments of God’s mercy, we have a job to do. God is only giving us more time for salvation.
In this Advent season, in which we remember the first coming of our Lord and look to his second, St. Peter admonishes us to get a move on, to seek out ways to bring his mercy into the dark places of the world. Doing so is the only concrete way to express in deed our earnest desire for his return, and to actively hasten his coming.
James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Ifo (Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
Trinity Parish, St. Augustine, Fla.