by Steve Hands

We don’t all agree about the way our state or country is handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some of us think we need to strictly adhere to CDC guidelines. Some of us think we ought to reopen much faster than our government’s current plan. It is hard to discern which voices to listen to. However, we can certainly choose how our voice will sound in the coming conversations. Will we love and honor one another in our differences, even if those differences have costly consequences? As we turn to the close of the tabernacle construction instructions in Exodus, we’ll see that as we trust the God who holds our lives in his hands (Exod 30:11-16) we are empowered to love one another (31:1-6).

First, we have to learn to trust the God who holds our lives in his hands (Exod 30:11-16). As God concludes the construction of the tabernacle, we get a brief glimpse into the coming journey of the Israelites with this excerpt on the census tax. God warns that censuses would provoke a plague from him if an offering were not collected simultaneously for the tabernacle. At the moments Israel would want to muster its strength to protect itself, God requires a reminder of who really holds their lives in his hands, and where their strength, protection, and provision truly come from. So too today as we face a crisis and have disagreement over the best way to secure protection and provision for all, we must remember who primarily holds our lives in his hands. If our position on the issue becomes our primary source of hope, then those who disagree become our opponents, even enemies, and we will face each other down with contempt and any means available to our disposal. But if we trust in God, we can pursue the path we believe will lead to wellbeing, even while displaying the fruit of the Spirit in our conversations.

But if we remember that God still holds our lives in his hands, we will be empowered to love one another (31:1-6). God had called his people to a high calling, both in the way of life dictated in the laws, and in the precise instructions for the construction of the tabernacle. Who would be able to live up to the laws, or create something exactly as God desired? But God reveals what he so often reminds us, that what is impossible with man is possible with his Spirit. The special enabling of the craftsmen and craftswomen to build the tabernacle contains the reminder that God is the source of all skill (31:6). We too have been called by God to a high task, set apart like the incense and oil to a special purpose, that is often beyond our natural ability. Who can love their enemies or bless their political opponents or speak continuously the truth seasoned with love and kindness and patience and gentleness? Yet this high calling is set on the firm foundation of God’s provision and protection for us, and it is enabled by the Holy Spirit himself living in each one of us.

So church, as the lockdown drags on, and the temptations rise to blame each other for the loss and cost of reopening or staying shut, may we remember that it is not ultimately the CDC guidelines that preserve our lives, nor an open economy that will provide for our needs, so that we can seek the power of the Holy Spirit to live out our high calling, seasoning all of our truthful conversations with love and gentleness. We can love and honor one another in our differences, even when those differences risk a great cost, because our hope is in God and our love is empowered by him.