No matter where we are in life’s journey it seems we never have enough time. We spend vast sums of money on various resources to help us manage our time more effectively. We debate the merits of trying to cram too much into too little time versus finding more quiet time to think creatively and appreciate the beauty that envelops us in God’s Eden. We organize time in years, a measure of how long it takes the earth to orbit the sun. Many churches use the start of a new “school year” to energize programs after the summer break. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are celebrating the beginning of the year 5776 and of course the Mayan calendar ended rather famously in 2012.
Time is something we too often take for granted until a deadline looms or a person quite dear to us suddenly becomes ill and doctors advise that their days or hours are numbered. God of course has the key to wind the cosmic clock so when we speak of God as eternal it is surely beyond our ability to fully comprehend. If we say the universe is 14 billion years old how much older is God? Is it a silly question to even consider? When God speaks to us through Scripture about time are we actually talking about the same phenomena? How does it inform our understanding of Scripture?
And then there is Ecclesiastes time, what the Greeks called kairos (v chronos) as in, a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; (Ecclesiastes 3:2,7). This week I received an An Open Letter from the Westchester Board of Rabbis that begins: “During the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, through Yom Kippur, Jewish tradition calls upon us to confront the reality of sin, and to extricate ourselves from its grip.” The letter references Maimonides, the towering Rabbinic scholar and philosopher, who taught, “we must cleanse our souls, elevate our character, and refresh our bonds with both God and our fellow human beings.” With this in mind, the Westchester Board of Rabbis calls attention to a “sin which has plagued our (Jewish) communities this past year, and which must not be carried forward, into the next. The sin is sinat chinam – gratuitous hatred; a hatred which is unwarranted, unproductive, and uncalled for.”
The letter focuses specifically on the controversy surrounding the recent agreement with Iran over nuclear development but the sin of gratuitous hatred is evident in communities across the nation. Indeed I worry that gratuitous hatred is the fuel to much of the polarization that has infected the national discourse on everything from the rights of the LGBTQ community, to persons of color who are plagued by systemic discrimination, to how we treat those who emigrate seeking asylum and a better future. Despite the campaign rhetoric, winning is not a zero sum game. More importantly, balanced solutions often result in a rising tide (not the kind caused by global warming!) that benefit all.
As the writer of Ecclesiastes might put it, there is a time to argue and a time to reconcile. We are called to hold our values dear while we continue learn, always keeping an open mind. But the ultimate consideration, the final test, is whether our response it is consistent with loving our neighbor as ourselves. The time is now.
Tom Buchanan is serving as the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of New Rochelle after multiple careers in banking and business development.