Solar Array (An Object Lesson)

The house that we bought had installed a rather large solar array.  Unfortunately, we learned about a month after moving in that something was wrong and it wasn’t working.  We learned this when the new electric bill came and there was a zero on produced electricity.  The frustration was doubled when the supposed fix was delayed for another month when the scheduled repairman bailed out on the initial date.  Other than the occasion to sin as several words got taken in vain over that time, it was also an occasion to learn a few things.  I did manage to learn that the installation was still on warranty, who the company was and how to contact them.  I learned that they provide both a website and a phone app that monitors and reports on solar production, to which I am now addicted checking the status.  I also learned a bit about the actual physical installation which I think is a possible if flawed object lesson in two types of righteousness or the righteousness of the law and that of the gospel.

I’ll say the solar array has three parts: the panels up on the roof, the wires and gauges, and something called an inverter. The panels produce direct current (DC).  The electricity that comes from APS is alternating current (AC). The DC produced has to be converted to AC to be used.  That is the purpose of the inverter. What was out on my array was the inverter.  So, when I got access to the reporting app, I could see Watts being produced by the panels, but it all went nowhere.  They were being sent into a non-working inverter.

Luther would talk about moral and civil righteousness.  Moral righteousness is that vertical standing with God.  Civil righteousness is our standing with each other. The only way we receive moral righteousness is by faith in what Christ has done.  The reason we can stand is because Christ has given us his righteousness that covers all our sin.  Civil righteousness works much differently, and it has some interesting quirks.  Civil righteousness is active.  We do it.  The real question is if what we are doing is truly righteous or just what we or our society think is righteous.

The law of God, like those solar panels, makes use of the light given.  The law is good and wise and tells us what is truly righteous.  But like those panels, the law by itself has no ability to produce usable power.   And what it does produce can be wasted.  We know what is right, but we don’t feel like doing it, or worse we twist it to support what I want to do.  By ourselves we are like those DC solar panels.  The light of the law wasted.  A direct current to nowhere good.

It is only by the indwelling of the Spirit creating faith in the work of Christ that creates something usable. That inverter is able to make two useful things out of the law. First is it able to make us aware of our sin.  When we look at the cross we become aware that however we have been counting righteousness, it doesn’t work.  Our righteousness with God is something that only comes through Christ.  The second thing it can do is start to move what we receive from God into the right directions with our neighbors. Without faith in Christ we might be producing a lot of DC current, but it does nothing.  It is only by that great inverter that the light of the law can be turned into righteousness.  We receive passively the moral righteousness of Christ, and we are then empowered, producing the right current, to love our neighbor.

Like all object lessons, it isn’t perfect.  I could pick it apart and probably declare myself heretical. But it does strike something core: “One thing is needful”. And without that faith everything is lost.

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