There are two kinds of time in the Bible.
Kronos is the time we’re used to. It’s the calendar and the clock. It’s about schedules and appointments and being ‘on time.’
Kairos is another term that refers more to ‘the right time.’
If you are a farmer, you learn to discern the right time for the harvest. It’s when the crop is ripe, not only after a set amount of days, weeks or months.
And when the harvest comes, you harvest. You don’t do maintenance on the barn; you harvest the crops.
Most cultures and peoples throughout history have been far more interested in this kairos time. The right time for the right activity.
The author of Ecclesiastes understood this. A time to weep and a time to laugh…
I sometimes use the phrase ‘get while the getting’s good.’ The right time to stock up your freezer is when stuff is on sale or perhaps when you have extra funds available, not just a particular date on the calendar.
I’d suggest that God’s activity is much more on the wavelength of kairos time, while our lives are focused on chronos time.
Like every area of life, not being on God’s agenda can hurt our well being
The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
God doesn’t operate on our clock. He invented the sunrise and the sunset. We are the ones who invented the clock with it’s hours, minutes and seconds.
He knows when the ‘right time’ is. And it usually has little to do with numbers.
What might this mean for us?
Lots of things. It can help us understand why God doesn’t do things when we want them to be done. Like why ‘answers’ to prayer can be slower than we like.
Importantly, it can help us in our discipleship. Yes, we need to make appointments for certain things, but it’s more important that we eliminate hurry and stress from our lives as much as possible.
If we’re making a couple of personal visits in an afternoon, arranging ‘after lunch’ can allow us to continue a great conversation over a meal a bit longer than a 1:00 appointment would allow. If a person likes to be prepared, let them know that you’ll call before leaving.
Kairos scheduling allows us to be flexible and slow down.
Chronos isn’t bad. But too much chronos can certainly lead to hurry and stress.
If you want to read more about time in the Bible and in other cultures around the world, there is a great chapter on it in one of my favorite books I read this year.