“Thief Jesus” is a Warning for Christians, Too

When speakers from out of town visit our churches, they occasionally do some “spiritual mapping research” ahead of time so they can tell us a little bit about ourselves. I’ve seen this done twice at churches in Jackson and both times our state prison was referenced. Now on one hand I kind of want to say to such people, “Don’t walk into my city and talk about us like you know what’s up!” But on the other hand, Jesus did something like this in his letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.

For example, Jesus told the Church of Sardis that he would come like a thief, which would have struck a special cord with them. After all, Sardis was surrounded by cliffs on all sides as its security system, making it next to impossible for anyone to invade it. This kept them prosperous for a very long time—that is, until opposing forces did the impossible and scaled the cliffs and unexpectedly conquered it.

Jesus’ words to Sardis surely evoked a history lesson for them. “You know how life was all ‘well and dandy’ until suddenly it wasn’t? You know how everything changed in a moment when you weren’t expecting it and you had no reason to believe anything ever would change? Yeah, I’m coming like that.”

As Christians, we often apply the Bible’s “thief” warning to the rest of the world saying, “You better get your stuff together, Jesus is coming back.” But here in Revelation the warning is actually for the church in Sardis. “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead,” said Jesus. “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”

As Christians, do we, too, live as though it matters that Jesus could come back any moment? Or are we just pointing at everyone else?

Today’s liturgical devotion is based off of the themes of Thessalonians 5:1-11, found at CommonPrayer.net.

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