Romans 13:11 – It is high time to awake out of sleep. (NKJV)
On February 2 every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, USA, crowds gather to see if the groundhog sees its shadow when it emerges from its burrow. But in much of Canada, still in the grip of winter, Punxsutawney groundhog cousins, known as woodchucks, are still curled up, fast asleep in their grass-lined, underground chambers. Unlike the bear, raccoon, and skunk, the woodchuck enters an especially deep state of hibernation during the early winter months. Its metabolism lowers drastically, its body temperature drops substantially, and it remains in that torpid state until the ground around it begins to warm again — usually in mid-April. As warmth penetrates the woodchuck's subterranean complex of tunnels, it shakes off its winter drowsiness and emerges to commence a new season of activity and living.
The woodchuck's experience points to the Christian's — in two ways. First, in Christ, we have been raised to newness of life — we awake from the winter sleep that has been our sinful, torpid state, to walk as those who have been warmed and energized by the Holy Spirit. This is our common experience. Second, once we have awakened to newness of life, we have to get on with our day-to-day Christian activities — we have to be about our Father's business.
This second way is the "awake" emphasis of Paul in his letter to the Romans. And he makes this emphasis because he senses the imminence of Christ's return. With Christ at hand, he warns the Roman church that all the works of darkness must be set aside, and we must engage instead in those activities which are appropriate for those who have a debt of love to Christ. We must walk as children of the light and convey the love of Christ to all. The only debt we ought to owe anyone is a debt of love.
Paul clearly misread the imminence of Christ's return, for almost 2000 years have now passed since he wrote his letter. But if the timing is awry, is the principle? The answer must be a resounding, "No!" Christ will return. And while no one knows that day or hour — only the Father — many, like Paul, now think we are in the last days. So it still remains incumbent upon us, as those who have equally been awakened to new life in Christ and who, like Paul, sense His return, to awaken — really awaken — out of any sleep that is lingering upon us, and to show the love of Christ to those around us who may be weak, angry, distrustful, hateful, and unredeemed. All, the unredeemed especially, are still owed the debt of Christ's love, and it is our hands, our lips, our lives — Christ in us — that conveys that love to them.
Prayer – Blessed Lord God, we spend so much time in lethargy and sleep; forgive us our indifference. May Your Holy Spirit waken us from our torpid selves and inspire us to be about Your business. May we show the love of Christ as He has showed His love to us. Amen.