Janus, the god whose name inspired this month’s moniker, was literally two-faced. He looked backward and forward at the same time. During this month of January, we often do likewise.
Though God stands outside of time itself, the Scriptures speak a lot about time and how we should look at it.
Much of scripture invites us to look back. We are invited to recall the actions of God in history, actions of vindication and deliverance. The chief things we are prompted to recall is the Exodus from slavery and our redemption at the cross. Looking back at these divine activities is intended to strengthen us and correct us in the present.
Too often, though, we look back at hurts and harbour resentments, or we look back at some ‘golden age’ when things were better. We look back not just in nostalgia but in regret that those days are gone. This is a poor practice of looking back. Churches can fall prey to this. We remember days when the Church was full. We remember that no minister was as good as the last one. We pine for days that never really were and will never come again. This type of recollection leads to a deep dissatisfaction which is antithetical to the “abundant life” Jesus promised.
Another great theme of the Bible is the future. Much of the writing of the prophets concerns the future. Paul in Romans reminds us that all creation is anticipating the future in which all things will be made right. The Church looks and longs for the ‘Soon Coming King’. We live in hope of restoration. We are a very future oriented people!
Many churches have become obsessed with the future. The major sport is that of ‘casting vision’ for the future. Goals are set and members roll up their sleeves to pursue this preferred future. If by grace they achieve the goal they set another to work on. This can be good and can accomplish much, however it can create an unholy discontentment. Paul writes to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
There is another time that Janus does not seem to note. It is the present! Today is the day! Today is the day in which we can remember. Today is the day in which we can work and plan. Today in fact is the only day we have! And yet we too often imperil today by trying to live in the past (as if we could) or living solely for the future.
I am reminded of the old Harry Chapin song “Cats in the Cradle” in which the singer squandered the present while working tirelessly for the future.
I have been giving this a lot of thought because I could easily become distracted by the future that I would miss the abundant living which can only take place ‘today’. Balance would seem to be the key. We hear most Sundays “Recalling His death (past) we proclaim His resurrection (present) and look for His coming (future).” As in so many areas of our life if we don’t get the balance right our best intentions pave our way to …..
It is about time we got the balance right.