Equally Skilled – Jon Foreman (2007, Fall EP)

Click on image to listen to song for free.

OK, I have settled down a little bit after Monday’s dive into the loud and the abrasive.  Today I venture back into the world of the unplugged and introspective sounds that dominate my playlists.

Jon Foreman is the frontman for the popular Christian band, Switchfoot.  And he has also produced some solo music that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  In his Fall EP, there is a song called “Equally Skilled” that we will be examining today.

Telling the story of sin and judgment in a song is always a precarious undertaking.  You either water down the truth too much or risk offending too many people (or both, if you’re really talented).  But Foreman does an excellent job of juggling his presentation and the whole truth in a powerful way.  He does this by beginning with the finger contritely pointed at himself:

How miserable I am, I feel like a fruit-picker who arrived here after the harvest
There’s nothing here at all…That could placate my hunger                                             We’re all murderers and thieves, setting traps here for even our brothers

And both of our hands are equally skilled at doing evil,                                                  Equally skilled at bribing the judges
Equally skilled at perverting justice
Both of our hands

This first verse reminds me of Romans 3:10-20, where Paul argues that all of us are guilty of sin and no one has any righteousness of their own to offer.  Foreman develops this   theology by poetically reminding us that we all possess two hands that are equally skilled at committing any level of evil, if we let ourselves follow our own sinful nature.  Any one of us is capable of becoming a Hitler or a Charles Manson.  The next verse turns down an even darker path:

The day of justice comes and is even now swiftly arriving,
Don’t trust anyone at all, not your best friend  or even your wife;
For the son hates the father, the daughter despises even her mother.
Look, your enemies arrive right in the room of your very household.

Not only are things bad, but they will be getting worse as approach Armageddon.  Jesus warned his disciples about the coming persecution and trials that await His followers and culminate in the End Times.  In Matthew 10:16:-25, Jesus reminds His men that they are sent as sheep among wolves and that this world will betray Christians in the Last Days in the worst ways: from the inside out.  Our own families, trusted friends and fellow church members will turn against us.  Therefore, their hands are equally skilled, as well.

But just as soon as you think the doom and gloom tune is about to end, Jon Foreman changes keys and lifts us up to a higher vantage point – so that we can finally see more than just what lies in this valley of sin and death:

No, don’t gloat over me…though I fall, I will rise again
Though I sit here in darkness – the Lord, the Lord alone, He will be my light
I will be patient as the Lord punishes me for the wrongs I’ve done against Him
After that He’ll take my case, bringing me to light and the justice
For all I have suffered

So, this interesting final verse captures both a solemn view of current judgment and future grace.  He seems to be communicating both humility and hope.  We deserve the consequences of our actions in this life; AND we, as Christians, are called to suffer for the sake of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  But our stories end with a God whose Hands are equally skilled as well:

And both of His hands are equally skilled at ruining evil,
Equally skilled at judging the judges
Equally skilled administering justice
Both of His hands, Both of His hands
Are equally skilled at showing me mercy
Equally skilled at loving the loveless
Equally skilled administering justice
Both of His hands, Both of His hands

It is a beautiful tale of how God will both satisfy justice bringing judgment to its final, rightful conclusion AND He will deliver mercy and redemption to those who have not earned it.  His hands, or His attributes, are perfectly balanced and capable for all of these things!  I am so often reminded of how evil this world is, how evil my heart can be at times, and how truly amazing our God is in the midst of it all.  I am so grateful that He is “Equally Skilled” at both Love and Justice.

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