Monday, January 16, 2012

Kairos: Sacred Time, part 2

Galatians 6.10: Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

We might consider this verse an axiom, an unquestionable truth, or a rule of life.  What makes it different than other rules of life?  Think about the Golden Rule.  Various forms of the Golden Rule are found in many religions throughout time.

Other than Christ, Confucius spoke the most famous Golden Rule.  A World Religions professor at a secular university quoted Confucius: “Do not do to others what you would not desire yourself.”[1]  He then compared it to Christ’s Golden Rule and claimed that Confucius said it first.  He was immediately corrected.  A missionary’s daughter said, “It’s completely different.  Christ said ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’[2]  Christ’s command was active, not inactive.”  The professor had no response.

Another way of saying this is that the Golden Rule of Confucius is a negative form.  The Golden Rule of Christ is a positive form.  Consequently, we can hide away as a spiritual guru, no contact with people, and still fulfill the Confucian Golden Rule.  We can’t do that with Christ, His Golden Rule calls us to engage!

Paul adds to the Golden Rule.  Like Christ, Paul is calling us to do good.  Like Christ, this is a positive form, a call to engage.  As we have opportunity . . . the verb have is active.  This doesn’t mean when the opportunity presents itself.  This means to look for opportunity.

The word opportunity is the Greek word kairos.  This is the same word used in Galatians 6.9 for the proper time or season (KJV).  There it brings out the God’s divine plan for time.  Here it shows us God’s divine opportunities within time.

Henri Nouwen explains, “Kairos, not chronos, kairos, the other Greek word for time, means opportunity to change your heart.  There are as many opportunities to change your heart as there are events that you’re part of.  Everything is an opportunity to change your heart – a friend to visit, the mother who comes to visit, the museum, whatever, that’s life.  Looked upon from below, it’s chronos; I have to survive, and I have to fight my way through it.  Looked at from above, it is kairos; it’s the opportunity to change your heart in everything you do.”[3]

As we have opportunity means we actively look for divine or sacred moments – eternal moments in time.  We aren't just waiting for a divine season, but also actively looking for the sacred in the day-to-day grind.

Paul adds, let us do good to all people.  The word do is almost always translated work.  We must labor to do good, or strive to do good, until we make a habit of doing good.  We do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of believers or household of faith (KJV).  Especially means most of all.  For believers, the family of God is the best place to start.

This is a call to help those in need.  Most of all, this is call to help the household or family of God.  Is this strong language used to help us prioritize our efforts?  “Blood is thicker than water” and we definitely look out for our family.  However, Paul is saying here that this is your new family!  How high is our Church family on our priority list?

Jesus gives us the Golden Rule.  Paul adds the sacredness of every moment and the bond of Church family.  How are we using our time to treat our Church family?  How are we spending our time?  Are we taking advantage of every opportunity we have with each other?  How sacred is your time?

                  [1] S. A. Nigosian, “Taoism and Confucianism,” in World Faiths (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), 199.
                  [2] Luke 6.31, New International Version (see also Matthew 7.12)
                  [3] Henri J. M. Nowen and Philip Roderick, Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation with Philip Roderick (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), 38.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Kairos: Sacred Time, part 1

This time of year, we’re all thinking of time: Father Time, New Year’s Resolutions, Bucket Lists, etc.  Actually, by this point in the year, we’re often regretting the fact that we’ve already given up on our New Year’s Resolutions.  Some of us are participating in special prayer events or fasts that our Churches facilitate at the beginning of each year.  With the New Year comes a fresh new start, the possibility of change, and the opportunity to reflect on what really matters in life.

Perhaps Paul was thinking along these lines when he began to close his letter to the Galatians.  How are we spending our time?  Are we taking advantage of every opportunity?  Are we taking advantage of every opportunity with those who matter?  We’re going to look at a couple of verses that Paul uses to bring out the sacredness of time.

Galatians 6.9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)

Paul wraps this verse with the challenge – don’t give up!  He starts with, Let us not become weary in doing good, and ends with if we do not give up.  In the original language, weary means to be utterly spiritless, to be wore out or exhausted.  Give up is from the same word group as weary and is actually closer in meaning to faint (as found in the KJV).  Both weary and faint are used of laborers who become exhausted in their work.

Paul says we can become weary and faint in the Lord’s work.  We can faint, pass out spiritually, give up, and give in to apathy.  This is a call to persevere, to endure in the Lord’s work.  If Paul were speaking today, he might say the Christian walk isn’t a sprint, but a marathon, so pace yourself!  The Lord’s work, doing good, is a sacred trust so don’t give up!

The reason we don’t give up is because at the proper time we will reap a harvest.  The NLT reads At just the right time and the KJV says for in due season.  This implies that it will happen in your time, when it’s best for you.  When who says it is best for you?  We often think we know what time is best for us, but we must keep in mind that God determines our season.

What is this time or season of harvest?  In the Greek, the word is kairos.  There are two main words for time in the Greek – chronos and kairos.  “Broadly speaking, chronos expresses the duration of a period, kairos stresses it as marked by certain features . . . Chronos marks quantity, kairos, quality.”[1]  Chronos explains the order of time, kairos the divine plan for time.  Paul is saying there is a divine season.  God has a plan.

At the proper time - in due season, in kairos, in God’s divine plan - we shall reap.  This is more than methodically sowing seeds in the spring and reaping in the fall, or giving a little money and expecting great return.  That mindset for spiritually sowing and reaping is shallow.  God is involved as we work the fields, and He will produce a spiritual harvest.

Paul is returning to the spiritual sowing and reaping of Galatians 6.7-8Galatians 6.7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  8: For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Don’t give up sowing good!  Do the Lord’s work!  Plant good seed!  Trust His sacred timing, and He will bring about your season of divine harvest!  We may take for granted the fact that time is in His hands, but do we really believe that our lives and times are in His hands?

                  [1] W.E. Vine, "Season (Noun)," Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1940), Blue Letter Bible, entry posted Apr 1, 2007, January 27, 2010).