Ephesians 5:15-16: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil"
Was our driver ever going to show up? The pastor had said that the person picking us up for church on Sunday morning would drop by at 9:30 am. Church was at 10:00 am. We waited in anticipation for our first cultural experience of going to church in a Caribbean country. We had left the cold and snow of Canada behind for a few weeks to help build a second story floor on top of Hillview Baptist Church in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I was immediately awestruck as we disembarked from our Air Canada flight from Toronto; the air was so warm and humid, the vegetation was so lush and green, the flowers of all colors created a scene beyond imagination.
Jamaica – the land of barking dogs and crowing roosters – was everything that it claimed to be. But where was our driver? We had now been waiting for over a full hour when the little blue car with the driver on the right-hand side pulled up. The dark-skinned driver with the short curly black hair smiled broadly at us, “Are you ready for church? Pile in!” Off we went through Montego Bay on the opposite side of the street that we were used to driving on. When we came to the intersection, he started blowing the horn along with everyone else that was trying to make their way through. Every time he put his foot on the brake I think that I pressed down on the floor boards, too. Talk about tense! Here comes a car toward us and I instinctively cry out, “Watch out!” The driver, while blowing his horn, scowled at me and said, “Do you want to drive?” I never said another word.
We did make it to church finally, expecting it to be half over. In fact, we were some of the first ones there. The pastor hadn’t even arrived. This was our first experience of what is called Jamaica time.
One time in Manaus, Brazil, I made an appointment to go to the doctor. The appointment was marked for 6:30 pm and we arrived at the tall city centre building, went up to the third floor and down the hallway to Dr. Frotas office. It was 6:30 pm on the dot and we no sooner sat down in the waiting room when the doctor came out to see who had come in. “Oh”, he said with surprise, “You came on British time!”
Another experience was when Jane and I had recently moved to Boa Vista. We had invited the pastor and wife of the church we were attending over to our home for dinner. We had invited them for 6:00 pm. Jane worked hard all afternoon preparing the meal and getting everything ready. Six o’clock came and went; where was the pastor and his wife? The food was ready, but where were our guests? Did they forget? Did something happen along the way? If they aren’t coming, should we just go ahead and eat? About seven o’clock we heard a car drive up! There was someone clapping at the gate. I went out and it was the pastor and his wife. “Good evening Pastor Terry and Dona Jane. So good to see you!” “Come on in” I said as I led the way. Smiling brightly they entered our home. Jane asked, “Did something happen? We were expecting you at six?” “Oh no”, the pastor’s wife responded, “It’s not chic to arrive at the hour marked!”
Coming from a country that is more oriented towards punctuality, we have learned to be a bit more relaxed when in foreign cultures . It is interesting how people in different cultures relate to the clock. In the industrial world you punch a time clock, in and out. The farmer, on the other hand, works by the seasons. He plants in the late spring and harvests in the late summer. In the Bible there are some interesting words for time.
Matthew 2:7 “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what ‘time’ the star appeared.”
The word here is “chronos” which gives the idea of clock time or calendar time.
The other word is “Kairos” as found in Ephesians 5:15-16.
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the ‘time’, because the days are evil.”
Kairos time is more like Jamaica time or the more relaxed time seen in many South American countries. It carries the idea of “an opportune time, the right time or the appropriate time. The apostle Paul is saying here that we need to be “Redeeming the opportunities, because the days are evil.”
So, whether we operate by “chronos time ” or by “kairos time”, let’s not forget to seize the opportunities as God gives them to us!