Christians are meant to live with a sense of urgency. Urgency is not panic; it’s not anxiety; it’s not acting before we think; but it is a sense of insistence that requires steady, and often swift, action. Why is that?
The answer, of course, is simple – it’s because the message of the gospel is a message of urgency. Before we come to understand the good news of Jesus Christ, we must come to understand the grave news of sin. Whether we know it or not, all of us are in the most real and the most grave of danger apart from the gospel. Not one of us knows which breath will be our last; which sunrise will be the final one we see; which phone call will signal the end of our days; and once that happens, it’s done.
We are, therefore, in danger. The world is in danger. And the fact that the majority of the world does not recognize the danger isn’t evidence that danger does not exist; it is, in fact, the opposite. The inability to recognize the real and present danger at hand actually serves to show how great the danger is.
What’s more, not one of us knows when Jesus will return. It could be… now. Or now. Or now. And when He does come back, there will be no mistaking His identity any more. He will split the sky, and that moment will either be the moment of tremendous joy and validation or the greatest fear and regret with nothing in between.
The Christian, therefore, lives with a sense of urgency because we are the people who have been entrusted with the only message of safety and well-being – the only message that can bring peace between sinful man and a holy God. The Bible might not necessarily use the word “urgency” to describe the posture of the Christian, but it does use the word “ready.” And in many ways, these ideas are the same. How do we live with a sense of readiness for the end? We do so by living with urgency in our day to day lives:
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:42-44).
What, then, would keep a Christian who knows the message of the gospel and knows that it’s only a matter of time until Jesus returns from living with a sense of urgency? Here are three things:
1. Our material comfort.
We are, so says the New Testament, pilgrims on this world – temporary residents with a sure and certain citizenship in another kingdom. The more stuff we have, and the more comfortable we live, the less likely we are to long for and seek the next one. The more we establish our lifestyles here the less we will invest in the other one. One of the most basic things that will keep us from living with a sense of urgency is our comfort here in the present world.
2. Our insulation from suffering.
How acquainted are we, really, with the reality of human suffering in the world? How close are we to real poverty, real persecution, real hopelessness? Perhaps you’re closer than I am, but if you’re like me, then you’re not close at all. All the images and stories we see and hear of real abject suffering tends to fade together into the background. Sure, we know there are problems in the world, but not in our neighborhoods. And as long as these “problems” don’t have real names and real relationships associated with them, we don’t really have to treat them with any urgency at all.
3. Our pace of life.
Our general busyness in life also keeps us from living with a sense of urgency. That’s a bit counterintuitive though, isn’t it? After all, you might be urgently picking up and dropping off kids all the time; you might have an urgent meeting you have to get to and an urgent report you have to write. It might feel like you’re always running from this thing to that one with no real rest. But all that busyness also serves to dull our senses of what’s truly urgent. We have all these appointments and activities to occupy our minds, and as a result we have very little time for real thought, reflection, and contemplation.
But if we did think; if we did pray; if we did start to surrender to the uncluttering of our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, we would find not that we live more slowly, but that we would instead develop a greater urgency toward that which really matters.
Christians, the gospel is an urgent matter. Let us look to our lives and see what’s keeping us from allowing it to be so.