Patiently Impatient: God’s time v. human time

How can one be patiently impatient?  Scripture encourages us to be patient as we wait on the Lord to act.  It reminds us that God works on God’s time, not ours.  The bible is filled with centuries between the announcement of God’s promise and its fulfillment.  

At the same time, the prophets and our Lord Jesus Christ command us to be aware of injustices in the world and act speedily to do something about them.  To paraphrase James, faith without works is dead, so get on with it.  Jesus has told you what to do, so do it.   It feels like God wants us to be patient with ‘him’, but snap to it in our own lives.

God is not slow to act, but when centuries pass before big things happen, it makes one wonder.  God is more actively engaged in our lives than we can possibly imagine.  What seems like slowness is the hard work of preparing the way for the time to be right for the big event to unfold.  Why so long?  Because God never compels but only invites, and it takes stiff necked humans a long time to get the idea.

It took Jacob fourteen years to mature from selfish, conniving young adult to responsible, God fearing leader of his large family.  It took the people of Israel four hundred years to be ready to venture from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan.  It took a thousand years of learning from the time of David for the world to be ready for the promised son of David and Son of God to be born in Christ Jesus. It’s been two thousand years since then and we are still unwilling to follow in the way of love that Jesus pioneered and commanded us to take as bearers of the good news of life in abundance for all.  We are slow, stubborn, willful creatures, are we not?

In the meantime God is more active in the affairs of the world than is easily recognized.  Miracles, if you will, are not rare but common.  Despite of our inclination toward greed, selfishness, and self righteousness; despite our desire to seek vengeance instead of justice; despite our abuse of creation without concern for what it will do to future generations; despite our willingness to kill one another in senseless wars and domestic violence; despite it all and more, humanity inches forward towards becoming more moral beings.

When is the time to act?, asked the apostle Paul. Now is the time for today is the day of salvation. Does that mean the end is near?  It’s not for us to ask, not for us to speculate.  It is for us to bear the light of Christ, however we are able, to shine the light of the kingdom of God that is right here, now to illuminate the way of love for others to follow, if they will.  That is our work.  No follower of our Lord Jesus Christ will be measured by how successful they were, they will be measured only by whether they bore the light as best they were able. 

And the end times?  The question still remains.  Are we in the end times?  Yes we are, as the theologians say, in the already but not yet; we who bear the light of Christ are already walking in the kingdom of God, though not in its fulfillment.  As Paul wrote, now we see through a glass darkly but then we will see clearly.  When is that?  I am in my eighties: for me the end time is visibly near.  It’s the same for all of us regardless of age, but youth sees the end as far away, of no immediate concern.  The elderly are not so naive.  It’s not ours to worry about the end of time, it is ours to be aware of our own time on earth, and the responsibility we have to point others to the way of love.

2 thoughts on “Patiently Impatient: God’s time v. human time”

  1. I think you put it well, Steve: “Why so long? Because God never compels but only invites….”

    How is time experienced differently between “compels” and “invites”? Compulsion is a matter of material power articulated through an act of will as in a command that compels obedience *now.* Thus the measure of the power of Mosaic Law took place through obedience right here and right now.

    But Jesus’ “Abba” *only* invites. The invitation is, so to speak, always already right there and right now addressing itself to you as an invitation. An open invitation that allows the possibility of your turning away. To compel love violates love as such. You must allow yourself to turn toward the invitation in such a way as to say, “Yes.” And such a turn can take place in any given moment since the invitation itself is always already there right by you in each and every situation in which you find yourself with each and every person with whom you find yourself.

    So there is a world of difference between compelled obedience right here and now and what it means right here and now to say, “Yes” to the open invitation to love as Jesus exemplified in his interactions with others.

  2. Wow! Thank you, Steve for this wise, wonderful and true witness. This is an especially meaningful and powerful word to share with us! Blessings on you and your message; may it be heard and heeded by many.

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