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September 5, 2016: 1 Timothy 1:12-17 “Making Up for Lost Time”

            Sometimes we get lost in life—sometimes literally as in a sense of direction--but lostness can also be about our sense of priority or about values for living.  All experiences of “lostness” seem to have attached to them a renewed fervor once the individual has found the way out of the maze of his/her lostness!

            I have an incredibly poor sense of direction.  I can find myself lost when traveling a route I’ve traveled many times before.  I can travel to the room of someone I’m trying to visit in the hospital only to find it hard to return to the parking deck when the visit is done.  I can turn right, then left, then right, but can experience tremendous difficulty remembering left, then right, then left to get home.

            I always have the sense of needing to make up for lost time.  I have to walk a bit faster to the parking deck once I’ve discovered my way. I have to drive a bit faster—although hopefully not over the speed limit—to catch up with the schedule I had previously set for myself.  I even resolve to study, to work harder, to do all the navigational exercises that apparently I SHOULD have done when I was a child riding in the back seat with a parent driving!

            But the experience of making up for lost time takes on even greater weight with regard to priority for living.  I have watched as patients who had lived much of their lives assuming they were invincible and who assumed that they would always have time with their families once the fortune-making was done suddenly make 180° turns when the cancer diagnosis came.  I have seen the radical change that can come in someone’s life when given the ultimatum, “You have to choose.  It’s either me or your job!”  I’ve seen students stand up and take notice when suddenly they hear, “Look, you either quit goofing around and start studying or you’re going to find yourself sitting in the same grade next year!”

         In the Christian faith, we also have the opportunity to see what happens as folks come face to face with the love of Jesus and as his love does the work in them that God intends.  Racists can be racists no longer.  Members of hate groups—whatever they may be—quickly wash their hands of the group and begin the process of trying to make amends.  People who have spent most of their time bringing hurt and pain to others suddenly make being instruments of love and peace their very life goal!

            So it is with the life of Paul!  We don’t often think about hate groups being at work in the first and second centuries.   The term is so prevalent in modern culture that we tend to think about it as a modern phenomenon, but hate, hate groups, and acting out in mean and despicable ways has always been a part of human existence.

            The New Testament tells the story of Paul who, in his hate for Christians and in his passionate desire to rid the world of all of them went on campaigns to hunt them down and to arrest them.  But Acts, chapter 9, tells how in route for Damascus for more of his hate-mongering activity, Paul hears the voice of Christ speak to him.

            To say it is life-altering is to hardly do justice to what happened within Paul.  Paul—the tent-maker—may have spent the balance of his life making tents for a living, but his passion became serving Christ, speaking the love of Christ to all whom he encountered.  He, with great resolve, washed his hands of the hate group and began to sink all his energies into being the instrument of peace and love that God intends.  I have the feeling that much of what was a driving force in Paul’s life was not only the gratitude he felt for the amazing grace of God in Jesus Christ but also the sense of lost time—time spent going in the wrong direction, doing the wrong things—and a desire to make up for lost time by doing good—as much as he could with as many people as he could in the time allotted to him.

            Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us could have that Damascus Road kind of experience—if every time hate wells up within us we could hear Jesus calling us to a radically different path?  What a different world we would have!

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