We are not just in the world, we are of the world. I’m sorry to have to be the one to say it, but it is true. I am myself guilty. However, I have been noticing a significant groundswell of recognition among American Christians that God designed a rhythm into the universe and we are designed to live in sync with it. I’ve noticed quite a few books discussing this idea, and quite a few blog posts on the topic. Here’s an excerpt from one a couple days ago:
The great festivals of Judaism accomplish the same thing. They shape time. They bring to remembrance things that happened in the past. They focus life on HaShem and, through him, lives find their meaning. This is what Sabbath was created for: it was created to set a rhythm to life. That ‘tradition’ brought with it meaning: to remember the Creator, to remember that we are creatures, and to remember to rest physically from activity and also spiritually in God. Sabbath, like the Jewish festivals and holy days, shape and give meaning to time.
People need traditions because humans are time bound creatures and need something to bring shape and order to their time. We need rhythms in life. In one of my favorite books, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes, “With the invention of the clock man stopped focusing on eternity.” The reasoning behind this statement is that what shaped time after the invention of the clock was numbers and seconds and minutes and hours. Before this point time was shaped by evenings and mornings, by Sabbaths and Purims, by Shemas and Sukkots. What gave shape to time were traditions that had a meaning which pointed to our Creator.What ‘traditions’ shape your time? What meanings do those ‘traditions’ bring?
What defines us? Biblical time markers or minutes and hours? Who do we work for? With what system do we cooperate, the one that cares for widows and orphans or the one that rewards the arrogant, the greedy and the power-consumed?
Have you ever considered that something as seemingly innocent as being a slave to your day-timer, your watch or your PDA is being of the world, rather than in the world, yet distinct? How do you measure the passing of time? It’s Q2 – 2007, it’s almost Spring Break, or it’s almost Pentecost?
People sometimes think that I’m an extremist, and I’m afraid this post may confirm that thought in the mind of some, but my hope is that it can put some things in perspective.
I’m not arguing that wearing watches is dooming our society, rather that it is a small representation of just how far away from a truly biblical mindset and lifestyle we as Christians are. Not because watches or PDAs are evil, but because they are master over us. We align our lives to the things of this world, rather than to God’s time markers.
“Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, Genesis 1:14 (ESV)
Why do you think Sabbath is marked from sunset to sunset? Why did God command us to observe the beginning of each new month by the sighting of the new moon? Because our lives are to be defined by the cycle that God set in place during creation. The word translated “seasons” in the ESV is after all, the Hebrew word moedim, which means “appointed times”, and is used in Leviticus 23 to describe the “Feasts of the Lord” that His people are to observe for all their generations.
I hope the reader will understand that when I plead for changes in our lifestyle in order to align our lives with the pattern, the rhythm, and the distinct culture that God designed and intended for His people, it’s because in most cases the manner in which the world’s system has seeped into our lives is so pervasive that we are totally unaware.
People want to protest, “Is that really necessary!?” To which I answer, “You have no idea the myriad ways in which you are of the world rather than in the world, and no idea how thorougly it is impacting your life. Why are we not light? Why are we not salt? What, I ask, is the difference between your life and that of your neighbor? Do you look different, eat different, observe time differently, spend your time differently, hold different priorities? Or is the difference really just that you “believe” something different, and so your eternal destiny is different? At least, you think it is…
Some books that may help change your perspective:
- Out of Control by Young & Adams
- Making Room For Life by Randy Frazee
- Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn
- The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel
- Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens
- The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee
- Serve God, Save the World by Matthew Sleeth, M.D.
Listen to the word of the Lord:
But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you. Jeremiah 5:23-25 (ESV)
In ignoring the appointed times, the cycles and the seasons that God has ordained we have turned God’s good away from us. Heaven forbid that this trend continues. May we turn back to God, to His ways, to His times, and to his cycles.