What if There are Two Kinds of Christians and We’re Both Wrong?
“He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood and his name is called the Word of God … from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” – Revelation 1:7
There are two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who think that’s far too simple. But even if you’re in the second category, you have to admit that the second coming turns us into two kinds of Christian: gullible literalists and sophisticated liberals.
“The Bible said it. I believe it. That settles it.”
“Jesus is coming back with a sword in his mouth? Please.”
One promise. Two camps. What if we’re both wrong?
Many literalists believe that Jesus will come back angry. So they’re looking in the wrong place, waiting on a revenge fantasy. Meanwhile, as a good liberal, I’m convinced that God must correspond to whatever modernity deems possible. So I’m not looking at all.
They stare at heaven. I’ve got my eyes closed. Meanwhile, Jesus could return and we’d both miss him. Wait, here’s something scarier than a mouth-sword: what if he already did?
It could have happened this morning. I was visiting a parishioner coming out of traumatic, invasive surgery. She’s facing months of hard recovery. At the end of our visit I asked her what she wanted to pray for. Healing? A quick recovery? Patience? Strength?
She said, “Those children. The refugees from Syria. I want to pray for them.”
I swear, those were more than the words of a kind church woman. It might have been the voice of Christ himself. I shouldn’t have rushed through that prayer. I shouldn’t have hurried back to my office and my stupid email.
I should have sat in that hospital room for hours, right on the edge of my chair, eyes wide open. Heart torn open.
Dear Jesus, give us eyes to see you. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.