Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. 2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. 5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. 8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 [NLT]
Maybe you’ve seen an unsupervised child acting out or endangering himself and others. And you’ve likely wondered, “Whose child is that!” Perhaps you’ve seen a delivery truck being driven recklessly and wondered, “What company’s truck is that, and how can I report this?” Maybe you’ve seen someone going out of her way to be helpful and you’ve hoped, “I hope she is a Jesus follower!” Surely you’ve seen people dressed for the football game and known whose fans they are. It shows.
Paul says here that we are children of the light and not of the darkness. We who follow the true light who has come into the world (cf. John 1:9), are called to stay in the light. We are called to live as though people can see what we are doing and give glory to our Father in heaven. We who are of the light must live as though we are in the light. Awake. Honorable. Decent. Faithful.
I’m all too aware, however, that we who belong to the light sometimes turn it off. We depart from the light in fits of anger, moments of weakness, and even times of purposeful rebellion. We’re just like Adam and Eve. We have it all – eternal life, the presence of God, and his loving provision – and we think we want more. Whose are we then?
I like to think of it this way: as a parent. I like to think of it as watching a rebellious child in hopes of her return. I think of a man I knew several years ago whose daughter totally abandoned him, her mom, sister, God, faith, and even civil obedience. She went on a reckless spree of financial fraud, kiting checks, skipping out of hotels after offering bogus identification and credit cards, and shoplifting. She and her boyfriend destroyed hotel rooms and generally evaded the law in any way possible.
She seemed irrevocably lost. But her dad waited for her. She eventually returned. And he welcomed her with tears.
That’s how I like to think of us when we depart from the light. We’re still God’s children. And he waits for us to repent and return. In fact, that’s the whole reason for delaying Jesus’ return.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. – 1 Peter 3:9
God is waiting and yearning for his rebellious, broken, wayward, and wandering children to repent, returning to him in faith and love. I do that daily, desiring most of all to live in the light, showing myself to be God’s son by a life of repentance and faith, obedience and love. Such is my hope for you as well.