Yearly Archives: 2011

Redeem the Time

‘Tis the season for reflecting upon events of 2011 in the world around us and in our own lives. Significant upheavals affected us all, but no two people will compile identical personal “Top 10” lists from the past year. After assessing the past, a closing note for this holiday season is almost inevitably projecting hopes and setting goals for 2012. We know that the calendar years in a sense are arbitrary delimitations of time, but ending one and beginning another affords us opportunities to reshape our intentions and to redirect our actions.

As part of my own consideration of past deeds and future expectations, I scanned a number of online resources for posted prayers for 2012. Several prayers sought God’s blessings and care for people who have suffered and endured natural disasters, political and social revolutions, and economic distress during 2011. One blogger summed up the aspirations of the great multitude of people for 2012, praying for a “fat bank account and a thin body.” Another prayer for the new year asked God to bless our calendars, clocks, watches, and all other devices for measuring time. This one intrigued me! The writer prayed to appreciate each moment, to recall significant dates in order to celebrate the gift of life, and to acknowledge the One who created times and seasons for all we do.

That prayer for God to bless our often-despised clocks and calendars set me on a course that led to a theme I am proposing for people of faith, and that I will seek to have guide me into 2012: redeem the time. For a follower of Jesus, “redeem the time” succinctly summarizes the consciousness of God and the commitments that should control our actions toward God, ourselves, and others.

First, though, we need to move with the Bible to discard our unhealthy fascination with trying to manipulate time. Most people are too easily caught up in the tyranny of chronological time. We succumb to clock-watching, segmenting our lives into isolated blocks of time for an overload of things we can’t seem to get done. The pervasive lament is that we just don’t have time to . get all the work done . spend time with the family . help with that very much-needed project . go to church . read the Bible . pray. And don’t get us started on rants about our calendars! Jesus must have shaken his head and chuckled as he preached, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27 NIV) Anxiously watching the clock – or the calendar – is not the time-consciousness the Bible has in mind.

A second alternative way to think about the time we have is offered in Psalms. After observing that most people expect to live 70 or 80 years – some of that time spent enduring hardships – the psalmist (stated to be Moses) redirects our attention to all of time as God’s creation and gift. When we remember that we are not at the center of all time, that God alone is above and beyond time, we can gain insight into our place in time and what we are to do with it. The psalmist puts it poetically: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 NIV) Another contemporary translation helps to clarify our proper place in God’s time: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.” (Psalm 90:12 CEV) Using our time to learn how God intends for us to live and then actually living that way is the best time management we can achieve.

This brings us from what “redeeming the time” is NOT, through a view of time more in keeping with God’s desire, to what I propose as a memorable guiding approach for living by our calendars, clocks, and the time God gives us in 2012. Redeem the time. The phrase occurs twice in Paul’s letters. Both instances deal with avoiding letting time slip foolishly away. In Colossians 4:5, the emphasis is on Christians acting and speaking in wise consistency with their professed faith in Jesus so that non-believers will receive positive testimony about God’s grace. In Ephesians 5:15-17 Paul makes the same case, expanding the phrase to refer to choosing good, wise, godly actions over nefarious, foolhardy, sinful deeds of darkness. Redeeming the time is the centerpiece of each teaching, as seen here: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, {16} redeeming the time, because the days are evil. {17} Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 NKJV)

Almost all contemporary translations render the phrase “making the most of every opportunity.” While this is consistent with the Greek text, the full force of the phrase is lacking. Paul’s metaphor builds on paying ransom or making a costly investment in each moment because it is uniquely ripe with meaning and importance. This is not chromos – measured time of clocks and calendars – but kairos – potentially decisive time that can change history. But kairos time always happens in chromos time. Redeeming the time, then, is treating each minute, day, or calendar block as a fresh opportunity to join with God to demonstrate his love and grace in whatever circumstances we find ourselves at that time.

In 2012, redeem the time. When distress comes, redeem the time by pouring the soothing balm of God’s presence on the anxieties of the moment. When fears seem overwhelming, redeem the time with courage that God has promised to give us strength and to sustain us through the trials and beyond. When joy erupts, redeem the time by giving thanks to God for every good and perfect gift, all that emanates from God’s good creation, and that God has created us to share his joy. In prosperity, redeem the time by remembering that everything we pretend to own belongs to God, and by sharing generously to promote God’s ways.

How can you redeem the time and transform your calendar and clocks in 2012?

J. Edward Culpepper

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