In my short bio below it mentions that I spend most of my off time restoring portions of our house, which is more than 50 years old. This is both a hobby and a necessity. The challenge of updating a mid-20th century structure to be practical in the first quarter of the 21st century is particularly appealing to my Stone-Campbell nature. After living in this old house for more than a decade, I can confidently say that I have been involved in every area of construction and repair. In other words, I know my way around every aisle at the home improvement store. My favorite project is electrical. The wiring in our house is so old that we still have an actual fuse box with fuses. Whenever I make an upgrade to the wiring, it stands out. Those who lived in the house before me did not have as many electrical appliances as we do in this century. With every electrical project I can customize the house to our needs. I have installed outlets and lights where there were none. I have upgraded single pole switches to three-way switches and upgraded three-way switches to four-way switches. Mapping out the plan for wiring and then building it is gratifying. Some people build model ships in bottles, but I prefer to build circuits.
I have been asked if I am nervous working on electrical service. I am only ever nervous when I put in the fuse and let electricity flow into my work. There is no call for worry when I am working on a “dead circuit.” As long as power is not running through the circuit I can do anything with the wiring. It may or may not follow National Electrical Code. It might even be wrong. I may think it will work, but I won’t know for sure until the primal force of electricity flows into my circuit. Electricity is the final judge of my work. It is a demanding and impartial judge. If my work is lacking, then electricity will let me know. Often it means that a switch doesn’t operate or the lights do not work. On rare occasions, sparks fly. Electricity bears no grudge. It is not personal. The invisible power is notifying me in the appropriate way that my work is unworthy.
This has nothing to do with “The Code.” Electricity is greater than code. When I was a gopher electrician (that is the unofficial rank below apprentice), I saw master electricians staring in bewilderment at a glowing red hot breaker box connection. They and their crew were checking their work and verifying that they religiously followed the code. They had. However, electricity had not read the same code. All electrical codes are a way of making electrical systems safer, but they cannot tame electricity. The power of electricity does what it does even if the code is not followed absolutely. This is the lesson that a 50-year-old house teaches you. Having a ground circuit is safer, and it is required by current codes, but electricity will still work without a ground. Most of the outlets in my house lack that ground circuit, but we are not in the dark. One does not simply tell electricity to follow the code.
When you are a preacher or teacher, every experience becomes a raw material for teaching. I hope the implications of this analogy are obvious and you might come up with your own in your messages. I would love to hear them. Here are some of my favorites:
Our structures are pointless without the Holy Spirit. We can draw up our ecclesiastical blueprints and worship orders and follow them perfectly, but until our fellowship and worship contains the power of the Holy Spirit, they might as well be dead (Ezek 37).
The written code is not a way to manipulate the power of God. There is no doubt that the law is important, useful, and meaningful (Rom 7:12; 1 Tim 1:8). Yet, reliance on strict observance of law and regulations to develop righteousness is incomplete (Gal 3:10; Col 2:23). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called us to a practical, empowered way of living (Matt 5-7). We can endlessly fuss over the rules and regulations, but until we take a risk and trust in Christ’s invitation to put his words into practice, our faith will only be in our ability to interpret words and not in the wild, untamed Word of God.
God’s judgment of our work and behavior is superior to what others think. I suspect that Paul was making a similar statement in 1 Cor 3:12-15. We all live within a judgmental culture that shames, scorns, and approves. Social media is the latest iteration of our tendency to like and unlike the actions and comments of others. We can be as fickle as Star-Belly Sneetches. Like fire, or electricity, God’s judgment judges our work for what it truly is and not on the approval of others.