GOD'S TIME - MAN'S TIME : WHOSE TIME?
Somewhere deep in the bowels of Hell, Satan convened his demons.
Now is the time. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.
The relationship between God's time and man's time is of utmost significance. If this were superfluous, God would not have drawn our attention to it Himself. A thousand years of man's time are like an evening of God's time. So, to know one is also to know the other.
We must not, to begin with, mistake the meaning of this paradoxical statement. It is not a statement on the insignificance of time in human zone, though it could seem so. Time matters to God! God is sovereign over time. All of time belongs to Him. Yet, He pays minute attention to every particle of time. In that sense, to begin with, a thousand years are 'like an evening gone'. To understand this, let us couch this idea in parabolic terms. A thousand Rupees to a billionaire is, perhaps, what a Rupee is to you and me. A billionaire may treat a Rupee with indifference. But God is not indifferent to the worth of even a small particle of time. He takes care of the contents of millennia as minutely and carefully as we would cherish the experiences of an evening, if our life were to shrink to its short span. God values time. Of that there is no doubt.
If thousand years are like an evening to God, the converse should also be true: an evening is like a thousand years. Years, whether counted in thousands or millions, imply a succession of evenings! In God's scheme of things all evening belong together and comprise the building blocks of the mansion of time. You cannot value years if you do not value days. This truth has decisive practical application. Whether or not we value our life can be seen clearly from our attitude to time. As a rule, those who devalue their own worth are sure to be lazy and poor at time management. They are unlikely to be punctual. As a result, they recognize opportunities only in retrospect, and are marked by grumbling rather than thanksgiving.
This offers a valuable insight into the Parable of Lost Sheep, which is fundamentally about seeing issues from a godly perspective. The proof of the caring character of the shepherd in the parable is that he attaches supreme significance to every sheep. None of the hundred should be lost. He would have clung to the remaining 99 sheep, abandoning the lost one to its lonely death, if he could not look beyond the given moment. The prospect of rejoicing with the whole flock, after retrieving the lost one, belongs to a zone beyond the given. In the mind of the caring shepherd, the moment of loss and the moment of restoration co-exist in faith. But for this, his conduct is irresponsible and reckless. Yet, his is the only outlook that makes sense, in particular with reference to the plight of the lost sheep. The world, in the wake of the materialistic worldview, measures everything quantitatively. Quantity belongs to today, here and now. As regards tomorrow, flocks of one or 99 are the same; for they are not yet, and are equally unreal! In course of time, one sheep could multiply to a hundred and the 99 could shrink to none, depending how things develop. Materialism makes sense on the scale of man's time. Its treasures, says Jesus, will not endure; they are vulnerable to rust, moth and thief [Matthew 6:19-24]
All of the time is God's. It is when we think we have expelled God from time that we develop the illusion that we are living in man's time. Whether or not we are willing to subject ourself to God's authority is seen best in terms of our willingness to function in terms of God's time, on which depends our "sent-ness"; for the harvest is the Lord’s, not ours. Those who see the harvest as their own will not consent to be sent, but insist on everyone and everything coming to them! This is where religious authorities, including those bearing the label of Christianity, go grossly wrong! In the world, Jesus warned His disciples, men love to Lord over others. "It shall not be so with you." [Mark 10:42-44] Why? Because, they are to function according to God's time. On the scale of man's time, it is inevitable that men play God. And not even God is safe when that happens! This explains why the sphere of religion abounds in cruelty and bloodshed, including cruelty to God. Truth to tell, the Victim in every instance, is God Himself; for there is not a blow struck on this earth by human hands that does not fall first on the face of Jesus [Acts 9:4]
The fact that a thousand years are like an evening gone embodies a profound paradox: human life is incomparably significant; whereas human actions and achievements are, in themselves, woefully insignificant in the light of eternity. While activities may seem to take place within the zone of man's time, life exists in its integrity and wholeness only in the haven of God's time. Because for God a thousand years are like an evening, the sum total of our life-time's actions and achievements individual and collective count for little on the canvas of eternity. They cannot impress God! Yet we are created in the image and likeness of God. So we matter a great deal.
Our life is God's invention and He attaches immeasurable value to it. It is somewhat like seeing human beings from an aeroplane, flying at an altitude of 5000 meters. People, walking on the ground, seem crawling worm-like, moving in humiliating insignificance. Yet, we are up there because human beings are great enough to invent the marvel of an aeroplane! So, viewed from the perspective of God's time we need to be more and more humble the higher we go; just as humans on the ground appear to grow smaller as the plane ascends. Our actions assume worth to the extent that we are rooted in God. People on the ground may seem worm-like as the plane ascends but the pilot in the cockpit does not, or should not! The he and the passengers do so, on the account of aeroplane, this marvelous invention will become a human scandal: a curse on our species. The spiritual application of this idea is that we cannot, and must not, calculate our worth only in terms of what we do or achieve; but also in terms of who we are, which is more fundamental. Jesus, hence, put the focus on who we are: the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the leaven in the lump. On the scale of man's time our actions may seem more important than our spiritual identity (who we are); but on the scale of God's time our actions matter only because of who we are.
"A thousand years are like an evening": a few overtones:
So the question arises in the end; which is the right or authentic unit of time? Or, which unit of time shall we adopt? God's or man's? Also, why do we sing, In your time...In your time...You make all things beautiful in your time..." The beauty, meaning and purpose of everything created is unveiled in God's time.
What happens when we switch over to man's time to God's time?
Faith is germane to God's time. The desperation that many feel in respect of faith whether or not we are wasting our life, chasing an impossible ideal- is induced by man's time. We cannot stretch our imagination beyond the brink of grave, as long as we live on this plane alone. Faith in anything beyond the present is possible only when we switch over to God's time.
We regain a sense of proportion. Within the framework of man's time, the gravity of every man-centered and man-driven event looks exaggerated. It is in this light that we can understand best Jesus' exhortation that we should not fear human beings. We are sure to remain shackled by this fear till we switch over to God's time, wherein man's authority can be seen in perspective, as Jesus did in respect of the authority of Pontius Pilate. We magnify our woes, problems and difficulties as well as the important of others. [We become, then, a party to devaluing meekness. Those who strut around on the stage of history seem comic characters on the scale of God's time, not to say anything of those who inflate themselves in the institutional contexts. The Resurrection of Jesus is, in one sense, the meeting point of two modes of authority: those that pertain to God's time and man's time.) And we become, in the process, blind to the redemptive nuances of our suffering and struggles. It is impossible to have faith in God, if we do not also subject ourselves to God's time. Faith enables us to see the present in its true preposition.
Is there a meeting point?
All of human experiences whether of joy or of sadness- exist within time. But whose time is it? Is it our time? But we never created any! Then how can we claim it as our time? If we do, don't we become like the servants in the Parable of the Vineyard who developed the dangerous delusion that, by killing the heir to the vineyard, they could be its owners? It is over time that delusions develop; and the most fundamental of all delusions is that there is something called man's time, as distinct from God's time. Time and space are the media that God created for life and no man has authority over it. We can be their stewards, but not owners. (Ownership is the most formidable stumbling block in the path of spirituality.) Thus, to live is to acknowledge God. Even atheists and agnostics have no choice in this respect. What they verbally assert is contradicted by their very assertion. They exist in God's time and space.
Then how do we develop the impression that what is essentially God's time is indeed our time? Well, the answer is not far to seek. Creation, on God's part, is an exercise in humanity. God denies himself through creation. "Let there be... and there was". The words "let there be...." denote the creation of space. It is by denying oneself that one creates space for others. But for this, all of creation, especially human beings, would have been mere automations and there would have been no room for making free and responsible choices.
The distinction between God's time and man's time, therefore, does not exist in mind of God. It exists, however, in the plan of man. And the statement, "a thousand years are like an evening" is God's commentary on this distinction, which implies a certain degree of alienation between God and human beings. It is a warning against mistaking man's time to be the ultimate scale of assessment. The 'man's millennium' and "God's evening" are not autonomous or polarized, but complimentary, categories. God's evening is the umbrella under which man's millennium must move and have its being. We perceive time and space because both categories are basic to the life of God has created. It is when we do not recognize God as the Creator of time that we succumb to the illusion that we live only in man's time. But to be able to recognize God as the Creator and Giver of time one has to intuit and experience an order of possibilities beyond time. It is impossible for those who live cooped up in time exclusively to concede the possibility that there is something called God's time. It is like a villager who refuses to cross the boundaries of his own village into the next asserting that Niagara waterfalls are a figment of human fantasy.
So the meeting point between God's time and man's time cannot be man. It can be God. That is why the insight that "a thousand years are like an evening" for God comes as the revelation from God. But revelation is a flow from God to man. Such a flow pertains to what is of utmost significance to both parties. So the insight under consideration originates in God and illuminates human awareness. "An evening and a thousand years," incidentally, is not an inappropriate description of the dynamics of revelation. A thousand years of unaided human effort are inadequate to arrive at the insight that God proves in an insight.
Dr. Zac Varghese from London writes:
The Greeks had a second concept of time, which they called Kairos. This time is measured in certain type of special experiences. This is the kind of time spent on giving birth to a child; it is the time spent on reading good books, painting, creating music, writing poetry and other creative writing, meditating, and having an intimate conversation with God, walking, climbing mountain, playing with innocent children, and so forth. In these and other similar human experiences we create the miracle of turning the ordinary time into extraordinary time. This is a miracle. In these experiences we do not think of chronological time at all, there no time for it. An evening in the company of a good friend has no definite limit. We do not measure such an evening in hours and minutes. The romantic moment we met our spouses might have changed our lives forever, we do not count them in seconds, minutes or hours. Such small moments could be eternity itself. We are slaves of chronological time, but striving for the ultimate liberation in finding kairos in every encounter.
Doesn't this also mean that human actions are very slow as compared to God's actions? What we do in a 1000 years He does in a single evening or a second? How long is one evening for God? Who has 1000 years on earth? Man's lifespan is restricted to seventy or eighty years. But we have a pragmatic way of looking at time. We are told to be the Light of the world. One of the qualities of Light is the speed with which it travels. An evening is equivalent to 1000 years probably also indicates the speed with which things happens in God's time.
Certain important biochemical reactions inside a living cell only take milli- or nano- second or even less. We have no way of capturing the speed of these reactions, but they are there so that we can breathe and react to danger signals. Margins of danger and safety are thin; it only takes a split second to avoid a tragedy. Therefore, it is important to make 'now' the primary focus of our life. It is in the 'now' we love and live. It is important to realize that the present moment is all you ever have. One look or one word is more than enough to destroy a friendship.
We say 'God is patient', but God is only patient in man's time. He has no time to be patient. He does not wait; He has no time to be patient. He does not wait; He does things according to His nature. But in our terms and in our time scales He may appear to be patient. He deals with our past and future on the level of the present. Our ordinary life may take millions of steps needing millions of minutes, but our spiritual journey may need only one or two steps to take, the step we are taking now to have a real union and relationship with God. I cannot love anyone yesterday or tomorrow, I need to love you at this moment, if I were to wait, waiting could turn my love to hate. When God intervenes in our lives we begin to understand the importance of now and every second of it could become important and action-packed. In that time frame our life becomes meaningful because we begin to realize that someone needs us and makes us feel very special and so on.
Mrs. Mini Krishnan of the OUP has this to say:
[COURTESY TO: THE CHRISTIAN MIND SERIES - CMS]
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