Sunday, August 16, 2015

Punctuality is a Sin!!!!

This post is a response to the many times that I have heard people in Christian circles refer to lateness as a sin issue.  I am here to set the record straight... actually, punctuality is a sin!  How dare you exalt your schedule over the importance of relationship?!?  I have heard that if someone is late, it is sinful because it shows that they are disrespecting your time.  I didn't realize people could take ownership of time.  When did time become yours? Maybe you hold "your time" with too much esteem.  So the next time you are tempted to be angered that someone is late for an appointment you scheduled with them, maybe you should question your priorities.  Are you valuing a schedule over a relationship?  If so, you are the one in sin!  (After all, Jesus was late and no one said he was sinning so it must be the other way around [John 11:6,21])

So, the above was satirical to a point, but there was a purpose.  Oftentimes, we try to spiritualize our own cultural preferences and then decide that anyone who is not living according to them must have a sin issue or some heart examination that needs to be done.  Punctuality is no holier than tardiness.  Punctuality is not a spiritual discipline, just as cleanliness is not next to godliness.  Punctuality is a cultural concept, and frankly, it is not one that you see in the Bible.  (How could it be? They walked and rode donkeys everywhere. Not the most time-efficient mode of transport :p).  But you say, "they gave me their word that they were going to be at a certain place at a certain time and since they are late, they have not been truthful.". That could be accurate in some circumstances, but you could also be speaking a different language of time.  More on that below, but simply put, if I say let's meet for lunch at 12, in my "time language", I get off of work at 12, so travel time is not included.  I could have more accurately said, let's meet around 12 for lunch. (Or 12ish)

Time is looked at differently in different cultures. In the Western-European worldview, schedules are very important.  Time is looked at in a step-by-step manner.  We do this from A time to B time, and then we will move on to the next thing from B time to C time, etc.  I have friends who even schedule time to breath! No I don't. But I do have friends who schedule travel time, walk time, and buffer time.  These are good habits if punctuality is important to you, or if you live in a Eurocentric society.  Then there are people of Latin-American and African backgrounds who view time as more circular.  Then there are people of the Whovian persuasion that view time as more time-wimey, wibbly-wobbly.  (If you are a Dr. Who fan you'll get that joke. If you aren't, carry on).  Circular view of time: it's more focused on relationship and living in the moment.  A person with a circular view of time feels that to live fully in the moment (rather than with a preoccupation with the next event) is most important.  Once they get to the next thing, then they will live fully in that moment, even if it takes a long time.

Major take-away: Stop making cultural preferences into morality judgments!  Since I've gotten married, my husband helps me to be on time more.  This doesn't make me a better person.  It just makes me a person that's more punctual.

A note for interacting with people from different backgrounds:  You still may think that a person showing up late to meet with you is wrong. Die to yourself and extend grace (and schedule extra time if you know they're going to be late).  Even if they did set a time (which then to you may mean they didn't keep their word), maybe the reason they scheduled that time was because they were trying to make a concession for you in your need for having a schedule.  After all, I know some of you couldn't imagine conducting life without strict scheduling, but there are entire cultures that manage just fine that way.  Think about it.