do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
— Colossians 3:17
The email sounded urgent. “Please come back,” it said in the Subject line. “We miss you.” But this was not from any long-lost family member or old friend from church. This e-mail came from an online store. I bought a desk lamp from them earlier this year, and now...Come back, we miss you — seriously? I don’t even know you. More like you miss my money.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me uneasy knowing there are companies out there that know all kinds of things about me I don’t even know about myself. Information is powerful, and technology has advanced so quickly in the last 10 years, the potential for abuse is huge and few of us see where it’s heading. I get as many scams and spams in my email box as legitimate communications. And it’s getting harder to tell the difference.
As I finish out my yearly read through the Bible, I am in the book of Revelation these days. It is, of course, about the end times and where things are ultimately going on this planet, but it was also written for it’s own day. The young Christian churches struggled with the vast
machinery of a brutal, dehumanizing Roman Empire. True, it was a government that gave everyone a certain kind of safety and stability. The Romans wanted to be loved by their subjects — after all, they built roads and sanitation systems, and kept a semblance of order. But they made a demand that conflicted with every Christian’s conscience — worship the Emperor. Call him your Lord, your Master, your Supreme Ruler, and everything will work out fine. And often the Christians who turned out to be just uppity enough to say no were tortured or killed.The book of Revelation is the story of the machinery of this world which intrudes into our life, demanding worship, allegiance, or at least to be liked. Written in code, it depicts the dehumanizing horrors of their day as misshaped monsters and violent beasts feeding on the human spirit. Now, I’m not saying that this company that sent me this one email pleading for another purchase is some kind of agent of the antichrist. But I don’t think they’re entirely unrelated, either.
The world is full of pressures that push us away from God. They want to replace the priorities of our hearts, the things we really want that would make us truly happy, with policies and products. We fall in love with the things we do and the stuff we have, forgetting that love is for people. We find ourselves advancing into artificial worlds concocted by human beings, kingdoms of something other than Christ designed around political power or moving merchandise, or games of one type or another. We exchange flesh and blood face-to-face human interaction for 140 letter tweets. Our lives become centered in these worlds, and our spirits sag as we realize we’ve begun to leave God’s world, his kingdom, behind.
Revelation is a warning to us today — that there are always rival kingdoms encroaching on God’s territory, kingdoms that will one day fall. The end of the book is unbridled hope, but only for those who are not so attached to the stuff of this world that they’ve forgotten that it’s people that God’s going to save in the end. We’ll all be made new and given a place in the endless rejoicing of heaven, where God is always center stage.
With all that in mind, I can think of no better way to enter 2013 than with Paul’s prescription from Colossians — whatever you do, keep Jesus in mind and do it for him. When deciding where to go, who to hang out with, how to spend your time, what to buy — do what you can be proud of doing, remembering that you always stand before Christ. Maybe that’s him now, calling to you, pleading in your heart: Please come back, I miss you...