The time is now

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 24
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

My children know that when I say we’re leaving the house at 7 p.m., I will be anxiously waiting at the door or in the car by 6:40 (at the latest). If I am not at least 20 minutes early, I have the irrationally uneasy feeling of being late. Unfortunately, my impatience does not discern between big, important things and casual events where almost everyone else will wander in 15 minutes late. Eye rolls and foot stomps do not quell my haste. All in my household know the zeal that accompanies the question, “Is everybody ready?” The message is unequivocally, “I am ready. I want to leave now.”

St. Paul has a similar sense of urgency when he asserts that “the time is running out … the world in its present form is passing away.” In the gospel, Simon, Andrew, James, and John were called to immediately abandon everything and follow Jesus, without so much as ten minutes to pick up their nets or say goodbye to their families. And the story of Jonah’s warning to the Ninevites also speaks of limited time. After his initial refusal, God gave Jonah a second chance to deliver the message of repentance, spending some time at (and in) the sea receiving and understanding God’s message. Then it took three days for him to traverse Nineveh with a warning that in 40 days, the time is up. The Ninevites, to their credit, accepted the message and put on an immediate, impressive outward show of their remorse. They understood the urgency of their limited time, and responded to God’s call.

As noted, I become impatient when my family does not respond to my call to leave the house early. And they grow frustrated with my impatience, offering a vociferous “We have more time dad, we don’t need to be ready yet.” Yet, on the flip side, I become equally vociferous when I am the one being pushed. I told my editor recently that my family does not envy her job as blog editor, because should we ever disagree on an edit, I won’t be the one to bend. God knows this side of me all too well, and when He tells me it is time to grow in my faith or move to action, I am often found rolling my eyes and stomping my feet. “His clock is fast. I still have more time to finish getting ready.”

Like me, God is not deterred by eye rolls and foot stomps. Unlike me, God is patient. He is also persistent and steadfast in His pursuit to teach me His ways. With an everlasting love, His call is for me to turn towards Him and away from my sin. And He’s willing to give second chances, as He did to Jonah, and even third and fourth (and thousandth!) chances. In my own life, I know I have been given multiple chances to set aside my repetitive failures to love God and those around me.

Importantly, however, I cannot rest on God’s patience because I do not know when I will run out of chances. I cannot simply assume grace lest I become complacent in my self-separation from the love that surrounds me. I can’t move through life on autopilot just because grace is available to me. Jesus tells me, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” This is the time. Now. Not ten more minutes. My response to “Repent, and believe in the gospel” should echo my haste to be early to a meeting or event. I am called, as were the Ninevites, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, to immediately turn to and follow Christ.

Only God truly knows how much time I have to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24) I have a musically talented niece who is prepared to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano at my funeral. While I do not believe the occasion is imminent, I know I will not remain on this earth forever. Knowing so should be my reminder of the immediacy of answering Christ when he asks, “Is everybody ready?” With eternal salvation at stake, there is a great sense of urgency. Additionally, my example and my living the love of Christ is urgently needed by those around me. There is no better time to respond. The time is now.

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