Scripture is full of one-liners. I'm not referring to jokes, although there is humor in the Bible. The one-liners I'm speaking of are people.
Significant people who are summarized in single sentences show up all over the Bible. But we don't notice them the same way we gravitate toward characters whose stories fill chapters. When we talk about examples of faith, we talk about people like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Mary, John, Peter, and Paul. We go straight to the chapter characters.
It's human nature, of course, to spend our time considering the lives of those where the text seems to linger. More detail means more importance, right?
Chapter characters are important to the narrative of Scripture. So are the one-liners. Consider Enoch, a stand-out one-liner from Genesis 5: "Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him (Genesis 5:23-24).
Umm…seriously? I'd take that testimony. I'd love to be remembered in that way. But whatever walking with God involved, the full story didn't make the front page of the papyrus. Not the middle, not the back page, even. Enoch gets just seven mentions total in Scripture, and his life is summarized in only one line. (Most of the other mentions relate to genealogy!)
The people mentioned in the Bible are all important, or their names wouldn't be included for us to read. Scripture is God-breathed, and God is not superfluous. However, all of the characters aren't equally represented, which has been raising some hard questions for me lately.
This year, I have felt led to stop focusing on being a chapter character and simply live the line.
Elevating chapter characters causes us to desire to be like them. We are right to model after the qualities of faithfulness and character in their lives, but wrong to seek a place of detail-worthy significance. When I read the stories of these characters, I realize that none of them sought the spotlight; they simply were placed in its glow. That's the God-way.
A life that is rightly oriented toward serving God requires two kinds of obedience: obedience in the moment and the kind of obedience Eugene Peterson calls "a long obedience in the same direction." Obedience in the moment guides our decisions today and keeps us in step with the Spirit. A long obedience in the same direction requires persistence, tenacity, and commitment to follow God for the years to come.
Recently I have stopped praying for vision, and I'm asking God earnestly for clarity. What does obedience look like in this moment? What can I do right now, today, to live the line?