What is a Christian? Just ask Peter, James, Paul, Luke, or the anonymous author of Hebrews. Christians, they will tell you, are people in waiting. But waiting for whom or for what? The most important question is “for whom do we wait?” To which the answer is that we wait for “a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Like the Thessalonians, our conversion involved a full-body turn from every lesser allegiance, “to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven . . .” Jesus our Lord is our Savior as well, who will rescue us from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10). But that is not all. Jesus will also “change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20). For such a Savior we not only are waiting. We are “eagerly waiting” (Heb. 9:28).
To summarize our vocation as “waiting for Jesus” understandably suggests an attitude of passiveness, but no one should assume that it is a life of sloth or even inaction. “Active passivity” might be the phrase we need , at the moment. The more experienced we become at this waiting, the more we will appreciate the work that Christ has left for us to do while we wait, and the better we will understand just how fittingly the phrase “waiting for Jesus” describes our dependence on Him for whom we wait. “The grace of God appeared” in the person of Jesus when the Son of God took on humanity “for the salvation of all men.” Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” In response (we learn from God’s grace), “to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” while we wait for our Savior from heaven (Titus 2:11-15).
Yes, our active passiveness is quite at home with the message of a crucified Savior, with conversions marked by suffering, and with a new lifestyle of dependence on God for everything that really matters. One thinks immediately of the Thessalonians, who received the Christian message “in much affliction,” but also “with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.” In this way they became both “imitators” (of Jesus and Paul) and “examples” (to later believers everywhere) simultaneously (1 Thes. 1:6-7). And we remember the Corinthians, not admiringly for any contribution they made to their salvation, but with gratitude and with hope based on God’s work in them while they waited for Jesus. Consider the following (Paul did): “the grace of God given in Christ Jesus”; being “enriched” in Christ with “all speech and all knowledge”; confirmation of “the testimony to Christ”; so as not to be “lacking in any spiritual gift” while they waited for Jesus, who Paul promises “will sustain” them “to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:4-8).