Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid in South Africa - the mission of his term in office as their President focusing strongly on racial reconciliation in their country. One of the quotes he is known for is also one of my favorites: "We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right." Time is a fleeting thing - it is easy for it to get away from us, like water passing under a bridge, we often don't recognize the millions of seconds just frittered away. The time is always "ripe" to do right - there is no "wrong time" for doing right. It is quite possible that what may be accomplished in this day may never be regained - so we must learn to appreciate the moment, embrace it, and then "do" what needs to be done in that moment.
Don’t you know that as long as you do what is right, then I accept you? But if you do not do what is right, watch out, because sin is crouching at the door, ready to pounce on you! You must master it before it masters you. (Genesis 4:7 VOICE)
God is in conversation with Cain, one of the children born to Adam and Eve. Cain was in bitter disagreement with his brother, Abel, over which "sacrifice" was actually "better" in God's eyes. One was a farmer - the other a herdsman. The one brought the first-fruits of the field, the other a lamb. From what is recorded in scripture, God really found favor with Abel because of that "blood sacrifice" - a symbol of how God was foretelling the "means" of reconciliation between man and himself. It is kind of a long story, but to put it bluntly, the brothers were at odds with each other because of what they chose to sacrifice. Cain forms some bitter feelings toward his brother and before long, we find what God warned against in our passage above became the reality in his life.
God's warning - master sin's urging or it will come to master you! Sin or compromise always has some kind of urging with it - something perhaps not very "big" at first, but if given into long enough, it becomes the thing which masters us. Mandela may have said it another way, but he was really reflecting the message God gave to Cain all those years before - the time is always "right" to DO RIGHT. God may have been just giving us a little warning about the "passage of time" when it comes to dealing with those little compromises we make over the longer course of time - they lead to drift and drift leads to us being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong things!
Psalm 11:7 reads: "The Eternal is right in all His ways; He cherishes all that is upright. Those who do what is right in His eyes will see His face." The time is always right to do what is right - and it comes with huge rewards! When we take notice of the time, we are more likely to be attentive to it, aren't we? When you know a deadline is looming such as having a brief prepared for a meeting you need to be in attendance at in about thirty minutes, you focus on putting the finishing touches on that document, don't you? You proof it one last time, edit here and there so as to bring clarity and make it as thorough as possible. Why? You want the finished product to reflect the time and effort you have put into it. Why should our lives be any different? Shouldn't we want them to reflect the time and effort we put into them?
If we fritter away the time we are given within relationship, we may be disappointed by the results we see at the end of that relationship - maybe even bringing it to an early end as a result of our inattention! If we fritter away the time we are given in worship, we may never feel the presence of God, hear his voice, or know the guidance he so urgently wants us to receive. Somehow I think we treat time as the sand in the hourglass. It slowly makes its way through the tiny opening between the two sections of blown glass, until it is all gathered at the bottom of the glass. I think we might just count on being able to turn that hourglass over and over again and again, without the sand ever coming to rest! Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth - for time is not in our hands, nor is it able to be "restored" by simply hitting the "reset" button!
James 4:17 reminds us: "If you know the right way to live and ignore it, it is sin." The time to do right can be frittered away. We often find the "frittering" is really just us ignoring the reality of something right in front of us. I am as guilty of this "frittering" as the next person. Ignorance is definitely not always bliss! Ignore a dripping faucet long enough and you will eventually endure a night of sleeplessness while you listen to the incessant dripping! Life is filled with "right time" moments - we just have to learn to be attentive to them, focused on making the most of the time we are given - learning to "do right" within those moments before they pass us by. We never really know when the time will suddenly be lost to us, making it almost impossible to "get back" what we frittered away in the process. Just sayin!