Jul 3, 2004

Patience in Christ

Despite the inefficiency and increasing indecency of our society, I have to admit that I enjoy living in the United States. In fact, there is no other country in the world in which I would like to live. I have benefited from the many opportunities this country has to offer, and I like to think that I enjoy this country because it has, despite its faults, brought good to many parts of the world.

What I have said, notwithstanding, I will confess that I grow increasingly disillusioned with America’s insistence on having everything right here and right now. We look for Internet connections that are ten times faster than the ones we enjoyed a year ago. We get upset when we have to wait more than five minutes at the drive-in at McDonald’s. We drive ourselves into debt because of our desire for instant gratification. No matter what it is, we want it now.

I wish that I could say that the church in America is above such desires. Unfortunately, however, even God’s covenant community, myself included, has been affected. Churches get frustrated with their leadership when membership does not grow fast enough. Debt soars when the bigger building has to be built today. This longing for instant gratification has even affected our systematic theology. For example, some theological traditions teach that we can be completely free from sin before we die. Ultimately, this idea claims that all the benefits of the new covenant are here today.

But though the new covenant has been inaugurated, it is not yet here in all its fullness. We live in the new covenant community that, because it has not yet been consummated (Matt. 25:31–46), still contains both believers and unbelievers. We still wrestle with sin (Col. 3:4–11) because though its power has been broken, its presence still remains. We still have teachers (Eph. 4:11–12), yet we look forward to the day when they will not be needed, for then we “shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

We do not know all of the reasons why God has yet to fully consummate the new covenant. But though the new covenant will not be fully consummated until Christ returns, we do know that it was inaugurated two thousand years ago in His life and ministry. Some of its blessings have come, most notably the final atonement for sin in the sacrifice of Christ. Let us never forget this great benefit as we, impatiently at times, wait for the consummation.