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What the Bible says about time: Kronos and Kairos
How does the Bible tell time?
Time can be measured in two ways. Kronos is the Greek word for chronological or sequential time. This is the tick-tock time that steadily moves along as you gaze at an old-fashioned clock on the wall. Kairos, on the other hand, is the Greek word that refers to an opportune moment and carries explosive meaning, especially when one considers how it is used throughout the New Testament.
The Limits of Kronos
Our modern society places an enormous emphasis on kronos, and, as a result, time is perceived as a commodity that must be managed and controlled. We end up actually spending time in order to discern the best way to maximize our time. Kronos leads to multitasking, endless anxiety about production and deadlines and incessant competition due to the perceived progressive scarcity of kronos. Here, there is never enough time because there is less and less of it with each passing second.
The Beauty of Kairos
Kairos, on the other hand, engenders a fresh, alternative awareness in which people not only bide their time but also perceive that they have plenty of time on their hands. By acknowledging that everything has an opportune moment, people actually begin to wait and be patient, cognizant that everything can never be done at once, and something will only work when it’s the proper time for it to happen. In fact, one can even say that embracing kairos is a purposeful act of protest against the dominant kronos mentality. Here, just as in the cyclical nature of seasons, woven into the fabric of existence is a certain ebb and flow that cannot be dishonored. Here, we begin to treasure moments as precious, and these moments are never limited by kronos. When a young, madly in-love couple reminiscences about their day together, they never reflect on how much time they spent in each other’s company; they reflect on the quality of time, the depth of time, and the moments they shared. Scarcity manifests as kronos, while love manifests as kairos. This distinction is seldom recognized in a world obsessed with instantaneous satisfaction and restless worry, yet what dominant culture has failed to realize is that the best of human opportunity does not emerge in kronos but in kairos—in the realm of interpersonal cooperation unhindered by the ticking of the clock.