I’m not a big tool guy. That is, if you went to my garage right now, you would find basic things like a screwdriver, a hammer, and a flashlight. Maybe a couple of saws and a few mismatched wrenches. Everybody has their thing, and this has never been mine.
That’s not to say I don’t see the need for tools – I certainly do. In fact, more than once I’ve wished I’ve had a greater assortment of tools when something around the house needs fixing (or more accurately, breaking worse, which is usually the case when I get a hold of it). But because I am not a tool guy, when something does break, I’m always tempted to just use what I have at hand in order to try and get the job done. I’ve tried to hammer nails with screwdrivers, take screws our with pliers, and a host of other ridiculous things.
Not so with the tool guy. The tool guy has tools just sitting in the garage waiting on the occasion to be used. True enough, they might not use that quarter-inch-socket-hacksaw or whatever more than once every five years, but it’s always there in case they need it. Just waiting to be put into action when the occasion arises.
I know it’s a rough parallel, but stick with me here, because some of the commands in the Bible are a bit like those tools in the “tool guy’s” garage. We walk by them in Scripture, reading them frequently, and yet we don’t see an occasion in which they can be implemented. But here we are, less than a year from the next presidential election in the United States, and it’s time to take some of those commands off their hooks. Because for the vast majority of us, this coming year will give us the occasion to obey some very specific commands. Here are three examples:
1. Love your enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).
Here is one command that tends to sit on the shelf because most of us don’t think of ourselves as having enemies. Oh sure, there are people we don’t particularly care for, but enemies? Not really. So this command just sits on the shelf… until now.
Regardless of which way you intend to cast your vote next November, chances are you will cast it with a higher degree of passion than you have had for most of your life. And whenever we are passionate about something, then that passion tends to bleed over into dislike, disrespect, and yes, even hatred of those who disagree with our choice.
Here, then, is an opportunity because chances are you will feel that sense of deep disdain in your heart this year. It’s a chance to choose a different way – to love our enemies.
2. Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Prov. 3:5-6).
Some large group of people is going to be disappointed when we wake up on a Wednesday in November of next year. Really disappointed. Here again we have another opportunity, not just then, but throughout this year, to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and to lean not on our own understanding.
Friends, we are Christians. And we cannot place our faith in a political party at the detriment of placing our faith in the Lord. We must trust that God sets up kings and deposes them; that he directs the hearts of rulers like watercourses; that all of creation bends ultimately to His sovereign will. Throughout this year, we will have the opportunity time and time again when the polls don’t say what we think they should, when people don’t behave like we think they should, when we don’t understand much that is happening to reaffirm our trust in God.
Now we should also be careful here, because trusting in the Lord does not mean forgoing out passion. It also does not mean being inactive. Our faith is not an excuse for laziness and lethargy. But it does color all those activities, and even more, our attitudes in which we are participating in them. The Christian who is trusting in the Lord lives above the sense of desperation that we will see pervade society in the next year.
3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
This next year will be a year of knee jerk reactions and hot takes. From everyone. Everyone will have an opinion; everyone will have a stance; everyone will dig in their heels even further than they already are, if indeed that is possible. In light of that, perhaps the most counter-cultural thing Christians can do is to really, for real, really, take heed and obey this command from James.
To listen. To be slow to speak. To control anger. These are the things that will stand apart from the culture in the next year, and we have the opportunity to exercise them.
Friends, this next year will hold God only knows what, especially as it relates to our democratic process. But in addition to the questions we have, in addition to the passion we possess, in addition to the opinions we express – we have an opportunity. An opportunity to take seriously those commands from God’s Word that can be so easily shelved.