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Cars, contracts, and honoring one’s commitments

By Alex McFarland

The hours were fairly brutal, but it was one of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had–selling cars at the Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealership in my hometown of Greensboro, NC. The year was 1985, and when I wasn’t sleeping through classes at my local college, I was the most enthusiastic 20-year-old ever to corner a middle-aged couple on a car lot and exclaim, “You picked a great day to ride home in a new car!”

More than a few things I learned in my sales training made impressions on me that I would carry for life. In learning to close a deal, prepare the contract, and deliver a vehicle, my trainer repeatedly said, “Make sure the customer realizes that they are buying a car.”

I remember thinking, “How could the purchaser not know they are buying a car?” But, as was emphatically explained to me, it occasionally happens that a buyer somehow doesn’t comprehend the commitment they are making. Imagine–taking the test drive, filling out the credit app, getting approved, being handed the keys, and hours (or days) after the car rolls away from the dealership, a panicked customer calls to ask, “Wait–you mean I’ve bought this and I’m… obligated to keep it?”

My car-selling days have long since faded into memory’s rear-view mirror. But the lessons I learned there still apply. 

Throughout life we all participate in countless “understandings,” commitments, or actual contracts carrying varying levels of significance. For any agreement to work successfully, honesty must be brought to the table by all parties involved. When one of the “makers” (participants in the arrangement) is unwilling to honor the terms to which they have committed, well then, we’ve got problems.

Obligations don’t go away simply because we wake up one day and decide we no longer like the way the contract was written. Neither are commitments absolved if we (for whatever reason) suddenly tell ourselves that our “feelings” are now different than the way we felt the day ink was put on paper. 

Contractual terms like “informed consent” and “competency” mean that participants know what they’re getting into and are freely making the choice to commit. “Acting in good faith” means that all parties are being forthright about the intent to stand good by the terms of the agreement.

America’s founders (influenced by first-rate thinkers, including Thomas Hobbs, John Locke, Thomas Paine, and others) closely embraced the concept of “social contracts.” In envisioning a free, stable, and someday prosperous nation, the Framers believed that every individual was in “contract” on numerous levels: With the privileges of citizenship came the obligation to live morally within the bounds of our Constitutional republic. Each American was tacitly in “compact” (as colonists would phrase it) with every other citizen. 

Elected officials most certainly were in contract with the constituents who had invested in them that commodity most cherished by those who had reposed to America from tyrannical foreign shores–a vote. Fair elections were about sending forth principled leaders to govern justly. 

Of all the transactions within our country that assume “good faith” and “full performance of duties,” whom we elect is also that contract that carries with it the most risk. We are literally placing our futures in the hands of those placed in office to lead.

What made this Republic work so well (and for so long) is another contractual arrangement present in the life of every citizen, what might be called “first lien” in the hierarchy of obligations to which we all are party: Every human is accountable to God. And deep inside, each one of us knows this.

At 80 years old, John Adams (who served as our first vice president and second president) reflected on the core convictions generally assumed by those who birthed this new nation. Adams wrote of, “love of God and neighbor” and “in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can.” He personally affirmed his faith in, “God, my adored Maker,” and in, “the hope of pardon for my offences.”

America today is in trouble because many are not “making good” on their respective contracts with neighbor, nation, or God. Like it or not, a stable America as a “whole” depends on the integrity of its “parts.” Does this really matter? Only if we care about the state of our lives in the coming days, and for eternity.

Two decades ago (and for the purpose of advancing leftist legislation) liberals mainstreamed the idea that the Constitution is a “living document.” Translation: removal of objective boundaries that (for two centuries plus) had prevented unnatural and artificial “rights” from being shoehorned into law. Leftists insisted that language (word meanings) be seen as fluid. Today, something as undeniable as gender has now become changeable, and it is pretty darn tough to get any cultural leader to acknowledge absolute, objectivity on just about anything.

Such a woke world won’t work–not for long, anyway. If truth and life are not restored as the absolute foundations the civic contracts that we live amidst as citizens, then America will descend further into the lawlessness that is daily spreading.

We are currently a nation of citizens who do not know they are citizens, driven by leaders who disregard principles to which American leaders must be committed. It’s time for a moral and spiritual wake-up call. We Americans are part of a contract with God and with each other. 

We’ve pulled out into some dangerous traffic, not realizing that we are now responsible stewards of the car.  Let’s each pray and do our part to see that our wonderful vehicle known as “liberty” does not get repossessed. 

Rev. Alex McFarland is heard daily on the American Family Radio network and weekly on The Alex McFarland Show (podcast and YouTube channels). He directs Biblical Worldview for Charis Bible College, located in Colorado. Alex speaks frequently throughout the U.S. For more information go to https://alexmcfarland.com/speaking/.

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