“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). There is a time…
- to set up the Christmas tree,
- to take down the Christmas tree,
- to be young,
- to be old,
- to argue,
- to agree.
Seasons cycle—winter, spring, summer, fall, then back to winter. Generations cycle—birth, growing, aging, death, new birth. We see cycles of peace and war, prosperity and want, dawn and decline.
We confess these cycles are not circles. They spin around, but they also go somewhere. We’re not where we were 10 cycles back; “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Rom. 13:11).
Ecclesiastes warns us not to play God by trying to speed up, slow down, or reverse the spiral. “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11). Sometimes we try to fast-forward time—grow ourselves up way too early. And then, when we’re all grown up, we waste precious time trying to hit “rewind” as we lust after lost youth.
Those are vain, toilsome burdens we load on ourselves, warns Ecclesiastes. Better to live in the present, making the most of each season our heavenly Father grants us. Savor the good days. Make the best of the bad ones. Don’t allow hankering for next season (or last) to distract you from fully living this one.
Wait for the Spirit
One way we communally “play God” with time is to try to accelerate the rate at which God’s Spirit teaches us “all things” (John 14:26). We expect the Spirit to let us dig out the answers to all our questions in our time frame. That’s dangerous. The Spirit let us struggle 500 years to figure out from Scripture who Jesus is. It took us
- around 1,500 years to see what Paul meant by salvation by grace alone
- some 1,800 years to see that slavery is sin,
- almost 2,000 years to figure out that divorced Christians may remarry.
So why are we surprised it takes time to figure out what the Bible really teaches us about
- war and peace,
- human diversity,
- women in church leadership,
- crime and punishment.
As our denomination currently wrestles with these issues, let’s trust that the Spirit will teach us eventually. Humility and patience must keep us from forcing God’s hand. It’s God’s prerogative to reveal what’s to be revealed and when.
In the meantime, let’s prayerfully keep scrutinizing and discussing the Word instead of demonizing each other. We can maintain our unity in Christ and work together even as we respectfully and energetically disagree on what our sin-blurred vision still cannot see clearly. When it seems good to the Spirit, we’ll catch on, just as God’s people always have.