Are we letting the Word of God change the way we interact with the world around us, or are we trying to read the Word of God in order to validate those things that we already know and love? Ideally, we are the clay (cf. Isaiah 64: 8), and rather than reading the Bible to affirm what we already want to believe, we should allow God to mold and transform us according to his will (cf. Romans 12: 2). The very human tendency to cling to those passages of the Bible which encourage our current behavior while neglecting those who might defy our standards will not produce transformation, but rather allow stagnation and complacency. This happens both large and small, and it is a temptation that the Bible student should guard against as best as possible when seeking to interpret and apply the word of God to himself and to himself and to himself. to the world around him.
Consider, as an example, the issue of punctuality.
Americans, on the whole, are a punctual people. We like things to happen when they’re supposed to happen. There are a few more specific cultures, such as Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands, but not many. It also means that there is a good part of the world operating on a much more flexible timescale. Americans traveling abroad can find such a scale frustrating, agonizing, and even infuriating. We like people to come forward when they say they will; we like meetings and events to start on time; we like our projects to be done when they say they will be done. We are so used to such punctuality that we find it hard to sympathize with a view of the world where showing up half an hour late is considered not only acceptable, but normal, where to start meetings fifteen or thirty minutes late. because you are still waiting for the participants. to happen is the polite thing to do, and where the planning estimates are mostly polite fictions.
Understanding this about ourselves, then consider the question of whether punctuality is a Christian virtue, or just a cultural virtue?
If you were to ask this question in most American churches, a good number of those who answer would insist that punctuality must be a Christian virtue and they would even be able to piece together arguments from the scriptures to prove their point. . Christians must be honest, their “yes” being “yes” and their “no” being “no” (cf. Matthew 5:37). If we say we’re going to do one thing at a certain point in time, then honesty, we would say, compels us to do our best to meet that schedule. Likewise, Christians should be a caring people. We are reminded “not to speak ill of anyone, to avoid quarrels, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all (Titus 3: 2)”. Certainly we would like to think, being courteous and considerate means showing up on time. With such reasoning, we feel justified in feeling upset when people are late because we think they are being discourteous to us.
Yet, is it possible that we are forgetting other Bible lessons that, if applied, would force us to seek to adjust our thinking? The Bible advises us to recognize that not everything will always go as planned (cf. James 4: 13-17). The Bible also tells us that “Love is patient and good (1 Corinthians 13: 4). Love, being patient, is perfectly disposed to wait for others.
The New Testament apostolic church was not necessarily a one-off church. Not everyone went to worship at the same time. This made it possible for some to eat all the Communion Bread before others got there, and to drink all the juice, something for which Paul rebuked the Church in Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:17- 22). In seeking to resolve this problem, the American would likely seek to promote greater punctuality. The inspired apostle, note, chose a different solution: “When you come together to eat, wait for one another (1 Corinthians 11:33).
At the same time, God is not always going to operate on our desired schedule. Rather than worrying about it or getting angry with God, the scriptures advise, “Be quiet before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37: 7). “
There’s nothing wrong with punctuality, but neither should we convince ourselves that it makes us more godly, just because that’s the way we prefer to do things. The real virtue taught in the scriptures is patience: a willingness to wait for others when they don’t keep our desired schedule. Whether it is learning to wait on God, or learning to wait for others, it is in this learning to be patient that we will become more of the person God wants us to be.
Jonathan McAnulty is a minister of the Chapel Hill Church of Christ. The views expressed in the article are the work of the author.